I worked as an engineer for five years until I burned-out two years ago and took off to a sunny place. I still have many my female engineering friends and acquaintances who experience severe job dissatisfaction from working in a male-dominated workplace. I loathe the thought of taking on those pressures ever again but am ready to return to "the real world."
First, I want to find out if there is a list of women owned and operated businesses or if there are any programs supporting such pursuits. Second, I was so ill-prepared for this environment. I must have been living in a cloud till I got out of college. I truly don't know if I would have chosen the mechanical engineering field if I had been aware of this. I was under the impression that women had an equal shot. Is this a common misconception for young women?
Coincidently I am reading a recently released study on girls, women and engineering. The study was undertaken by the National Council for Research on Women and is an assessment and proposal for solutions. The report makes specific recommendations to teachers, at the primary, secondary, college and graduate level, to employers, and to potential employees or students. You might be interested in the study, which can be found at: http://www.ncrw.org. The study includes a great listing of groups and organizations working under the general umbrella of women and technology. I also just read an article about a group called Girlstart that works with girls to help them excel at math and the sciences. The program is affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences.
You make a point that I make repeatedly about young women's misconceptions about the status of things. Having grown up with the benefits of feminism and in a feminist influenced world, younger women live most of their early years free from sexist injustices. We now go to college, enter the workforce, marry, etc. with a sense of equality. But barriers still exist, it's just that they hit most of us later in life - such as when we go for a promotion or when we get divorced. We are confronted by these things after being used to living equally--which is perhaps even more damaging, because we haven't created a network for ourselves. That's why it's important for feminism to have a presence in people's lives regardless of their age. It's likely that obstacles will hit them at some point - better to be prepared that it's a reality than being mislead into thinking that everything is okay.
Specific to your question, there are a few networks for women in business and women business owners - however, there is no guarantee that a woman boss will be better. There is certainly a possibility she will create a more inclusive workplace, but there is no guarantee it will work to women's advantage. Feminist.com has a Women Owned Business section and other such networks exist within given professions.
I hope that helps and I hope that you use your experience to benefit others who haven't yet realized these possibilities or who have, but haven't yet discovered that they can do something about it. Good luck - and thanks for writing.