In the annals of U.S. business and commerce, there probably has been no better time for a woman to own a business.
Women-owned businesses are diverse businesses, and there surely are challenges, such as raising capital for growth or even receiving accolades for their economic contributions and leadership abilities. Often, the road for women owners and executives is one that is often rocky with obstacles. A recent Harvard Business Review article, for instance, goes into how women are judged more harshly than men in business and other professions.
What should be highlighted is that women-owned businesses come in all shapes and sizes, forms and configurations. The Women's President Organization and American Express released its ninth annual ranking in April 2016 of the 50 fastest-growing companies led or owned by women. Included in the Top 50 are firms that range from a New York City-based beverage bottle manufacturer and information technology workforce staffing solutions firm in Dallas to a financial services concern in Golden Valley, Minn., and a waste solutions provider in Concord, Calif.
In the “2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report,” which is commissioned by American Express OPEN, a number of key trends are highlighted, including:
- As of 2016, there are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly nine million people and generating more than $1.6 trillion in revenue.
- Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent, compared to just a nine percent increase among all businesses.
- Women are now the majority owners of 38 percent of all U.S. businesses, which has increased from 29 percent in 2007.
- Women-owned business enterprises employ eight percent of the nation’s private sector workforce – up from six percent in 2007.
The report also highlights that much of the growth in women-owned businesses emanates from the ranks of women business owners who are minorities, including African Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans. The report offers these statistics:
- Between 2007 and 2016, the number of African American women-owned firms increased by 112 percent -- more than doubling the overall 45 percent increase among all women-owned firms.
- As of 2016, the nation’s 1.9 million Latina-owned firms grew by 137 percent from 2007 to 2016, today employing some 550,400 people and achieving $97 billion in revenues.
- The nation’s estimated 922,700 Asian American women-owned firms comprise 41 percent of all Asian American-owned firms.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research noted in its “Status of Women in the States: 2015” report that the growth in women-owned business enterprises can be further increased over time “by ensuring that federal, state, and local government contracts are accessible to women-owned businesses, and through public and private sector investments in loan and entrepreneurship programs that expand business opportunities for all.” The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and the Women’s Equity in Contracting Act are cited as two legislative efforts that have women-owned firms catch up to the competition.
Experts also point to the accelerating certification of woman-owned business, where the majority woman owner controls at least 51 percent of the business, as key to the growth. With certification, these firms receive technical assistance as well as procurement and financing opportunities to help them start up and grow. “Getting certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) can make the difference between landing that business or not,” writes Tamara Schweitzer in an Inc. article, “How to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business.” Schweitzer’s article offers a point-by-point primer on how women entrepreneurs can overcome challenges to certification and where they can turn for assistance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration also offers a plethora of assistance and information targeted to the needs of women business owners, covering business plans, business types, start-up costs and loans.
For women in business, the mantra simply is to go for it.