March is Women’s History Month and a good time to reflect on how women are doing in business, especially in light of the pandemic. This can be gleaned from reports as well as anecdotal stories from women entrepreneurs.
"Just the facts ma’am"
That’s what Detective Joe Friday used to say in the old tv series Dragnet. (There’s opinion that the term “ma’am” is a putdown; I’m only using it here to introduce serious information.)
According to the 2020 report from National Women’s Business Council (NWB), what follows are the most recent facts (usually American Express releases an annual report but chose not to do this for 2020).
- Women-owned businesses represent 42% of all U.S. businesses (about 13 million), have 9.4 million employees, and $1.9 trillion in revenue. But nearly 90% of women-owned businesses had no employees. Nonetheless their revenue topped $229 billion.
- Women-owned businesses are concentrated in low-grow industries (e.g., child day care, private households, beauty salon, home healthcare services). They represent only 16.4% of businesses providing professional, scientific, and technical services.
- More than 57% of microloans are going to women entrepreneurs, but female founders received only 2.2% of venture capital dollars in 2018.
- Women-owned businesses were awarded 5.19% of prime federal contracts in 2019, exceeding the 5% procurement goal for such businesses.
Impact of the pandemic on women-owned businesses
It’s a good-news, bad-news situation for women-owned businesses as a result of COVID-19. The bad news first. The NWBC’s report said that the number of women-owned businesses fell by 25% from February to April 2020. And of the over 1.1 million workers age 20 or older who dropped out of the labor forced in September 2020, 80% of them were women.
But women entrepreneurs are on the move again. Good news. The Enterprising Investor said that, based on printing demand for logos, brochures, and business cards, more than three quarters (78%) of all new businesses were female-owned. Entrepreneur reported that a survey found women entrepreneurs are the engine that drives the post-pandemic economic recovery in Latin America. It’s probably going to take time before there are solid statistics about new women-owned businesses in the U.S.
Some anecdotes showing women-owned startups…My daughter and her business partner launched a new company—b.minton—in March 2020. And a new restaurant in my neighborhood just opened up; it has a woman owner/chef. So there are some encouraging statistics and stories about post-pandemic women entrepreneurs.
Resources for women-owned businesses
There are some helpful groups supporting and promoting women entrepreneurs:
- IFundWomen.com, a crowdfunding platform for women entrepreneurs to raise money, get couching, and make connections
- MWBE Enterprises, Inc., a way to find consulting for obtaining minority and women owned business certification
- National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) (https://www.nawbo.org/), an advocacy organization for women
- SBA, providing information about certification Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs)
- WomenAndMinorityBusiness.org, a link to applicable crowdfunding platforms
The challenges to women-owned businesses today aren’t too different from the challenges in the past: access to capital, childcare responsibilities, and, yes, a subtle societal prejudice against women entrepreneurs. But things continue to move in the right direction.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said: “I want every little girl who’s been told she’s bossy to be told again that she has leadership skills.”
Changing perception, as well as providing access to capital and solving some childcare issues, will go a long way in helping to grow women-owned businesses.