For the first time in our nation’s history, women-owned business is seen as a major driving force in our economic recovery. Women are now half of the U.S. workforce, more than half of college enrollment, and the primary earners in more than two thirds of American families. While women are doing so much to move forward, it’s an interesting opportunity to look at the impact that women business owners make.
According to a recent study by the Center for Women’s Business Research, women-owned businesses contribute nearly $3 trillion per year to the U.S. economy. In turn, this stimulation of the economy creates new jobs, which are being taken by an overwhelming number of women and inspire other females of all ages to feel empowered to pursue their entrepreneurial goals.
No longer is the image of the American woman one simplifying a woman’s role as a stay-at-home mother or housewife. Today’s women find reward in starting and building a vast array of successful companies crossing into fields historically dominated by male counterparts. The current state of women’s business ownership in the United States is very strong. The number of women-owned businesses continues to grow at twice the rate of all U.S. firms, and these firms are increasing in economic clout. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of women-owned firms grew by 14 percent, the number of firms with employees grew by 37 percent, the number of those employed in women-owned firms increased by 30 percent, and firm revenues rose by 40 percent. There are now 6.2 million majority-owned, privately-held women-owned firms in the U.S., accounting for 28 percent of all businesses, employing 9.2 million workers, and generating nearly $1.2 trillion in revenues.
Women-owned businesses are also becoming increasingly diverse. As strong as the growth of women-owned firms is overall, the number and growth of firms owned by women of color is even stronger—twice the rate of all women-owned firms and four times the rate of all U.S. firms. Further, women are expanding into nontraditional industries, such as construction, manufacturing, agribusiness and transportation.
Despite this impressive growth, we still know that women in business continue to face challenges. Primary among them are: access to capital, access to markets, access to training and technical assistance, access to networks, and the need for legitimacy—to be taken seriously as business owners, employers and contributors to economic growth. Research has shown these to be key challenges for women business owners around the world. To address these challenges, women are able to tap into resources made available through numerous outlets.
The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the only dues-based organization representing the interests of all women entrepreneurs across all industries, boasts over 7,000 members and 80 chapters across the country. Our very own Central Illinois NAWBO is 70 members strong, a one-stop resource to propelling local women business owners into greater economic, social and political spheres.
Women-owned companies seeking to advance in the supplier diversity field can find an advocate with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Founded in 1997, WBENC is the nation’s leading advocate of women-owned businesses as suppliers to America’s corporations. It is also the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. WBENC works to foster diversity in the world of commerce with programs and policies designed to expand opportunities and eliminate barriers in the marketplace for women business owners. WBENC works with representatives of corporations to encourage the utilization and expansion of supplier/vendor diversity programs.
Women business owners are passionate about their business dreams and goals. Typically, women see the value in supportive relationships with other women and are more apt to nurture our employees and be in tune with the demands of life/work balance and the challenges of juggling the needs of our children or aging parents. Today, there are more business conference opportunities providing supportive programming than ever.
Locally, the Pathways to Success and the bi-annual Women in Business conferences are just two venues where women are able to network and gain valuable tools to advance business efforts. The Make Mine a Million program, originated by the nonprofit Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, is a vanguard grassroots community of nearly 45,000 women business owners nationwide supporting one another while advancing jobs and revenue growth that will positively impact our nation’s economic recovery.
At the end of the day, the future of our nation’s economic development is contingent on women-owned business championing new jobs, creating profit-generating revenues, filling our workplaces with compassion for all people, and remembering to have fun along the way. Today is about women not only dreaming BIG, but accomplishing BIG! A “salute” goes out to those women who paved the way! Thank you! iBi