Women Entrepreneurship: Steady Progress but Obstacles Remain

This year, we celebrate the 100thanniversary of the ratification of the 19thamendment to the Constitution, which granted American women the right to vote. Just this month, the House of Representatives voted to remove the deadline on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, which would allow for ratification by more states. 

Originally proposed in 1972, the amendment requires ratification by 38 states to become part of the Constitution. In January of this year, Virginia became the 38thstate, but five other states have rescinded their ratifications and the bill faces significant hurdles in the Senate and the White House.

Women have battled centuries of bias and stereotypes to make great strides in society and the workplace, but still face significant obstacles as entrepreneurs. According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businessesreport from American Express, the number of women-owned businesses increased 21 percent to nearly 13 million from 2014 to 2019, more than double the 9 percent growth rate of all businesses.

Part-time entrepreneurship, or “sidepreneurship,” increased 39 percent. The problem is, many women start businesses out of necessity because they can’t find quality employment. This is also called survival or emergency entrepreneurship. Many women just want more flexibility and start businesses to take control over when and where they work. However, women who start businesses because they identify opportunities in the market are more likely to be successful.

Although women own 42 percent of all businesses, women-owned businesses averaged earnings of $142,900 in 2019, compared to $474,900 for all privately held businesses. Employment numbers are down as these businesses seek to delay hiring as long as possible.

The biggest challenge for women entrepreneurs is typically access to capital. Women often struggle to find investors because they’re not taken as seriously as men. In fact, National Women’s Business Council research has shown men, on average, start businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women ($135,000 to $75,000). This is despite the fact that women are more likely to see a need in the market and start a new business that offers a new and innovative way to solve a problem.

There are several steps women entrepreneurs can take to maximize the success of their business ventures. The first is to take full advantage of the resources available for women business owners. Connect with a Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center and your local SCORE chapter. Look for programs within your local chamber of commerce. Find a coach or advisor who is right for you and your business. Scour the Internet for educational resources. Become educated in financial issues and use software to manage your finances.

These resources will help you develop the systems and processes for operations, marketing, sales and finances that allow you to manage and track your business efficiently. Without the right systems in place, business owners tend to work endless hours without seeing any growth. On the other hand, if you see a rapid increase in sales, you need these systems in place to ensure that you are able serve new customers and support the growth you seek.

Finally, don’t try to do everything yourself. Women are often hesitant to delegate because they want work to be done perfectly, even when they’re stretched too thin. If your business is limited to the number of tasks you can complete yourself, growth will be severely capped.

According to the American Express report, the potential of women entrepreneurs for spurring economic growth hasn’t been fully realized. By overcoming longstanding obstacles, implementing the right tools, and developing the right strategy, women entrepreneurs can launch successful businesses, build wealth and inspire the next generation of women leaders.

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