Welcome to the 40th anniversary of Women’s History Month, first celebrated in March 1982. I’ve had an up-close view of the progress and challenges women entrepreneurs have faced, and while women have made many advancements in the small business universe, there are frustrating times the forward movement seems painstakingly slow.
Women started embracing entrepreneurship in the 90s when the whole nation erupted in entrepreneurial fervor. State governments joined the fray, establishing agencies and offices dedicated to helping women start and grow businesses. And the Small Business Administration (SBA) was a proactive participant under the spirited leadership of Betsy Myers, who headed the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership.
There’s no question that these state and federal efforts had a significant impact on the lives of so many women, which is why I’m really excited that SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman just announced the SBA’s plans to elevate the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) to directly report to the Office of the Administrator.
Administrator Guzman has been a big advocate for women business owners. Under her leadership, the SBA’s expanded the number of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) to a record 140 locations nationwide. She says, “In 1972, there were a little over 400,000 women-owned businesses in the United States. Today, there are over 12 million proving that women entrepreneurs have become the fastest growing and one of the most impactful segments of the business community. While there has been historic progress in women’s entrepreneurship, significant disparities still persist, impacting women entrepreneurs’ access to resources and opportunity, especially in the face of the economic challenges posed by COVID. That is why I am proud to advance the mission of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership and reaffirm our commitment to America’s women-owned small businesses.”
In the 90s, women took the lead in starting more businesses. And according to data from the SBA’s Office of Advocacy between 2014 and 2016, the number of employer firms owned by women grew 6%, twice the growth rate of employer firms owned by men. This exponential growth was mainly driven by an increase in employer businesses owned by minority women, which grew 14% in that time.
Currently, the Assistant Administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, U.S. Small Business Administration, Natalie Madeira Cofield, leads OWBO, and she will continue to do so. Although this reorganization is still in the planning stages, Madeira Cofield will immediately start reporting directly to Administrator Guzman. She says she’s looking forward to working with Administrator Guzman to keep the “concerns of women, especially those from underserved and disadvantaged communities, at the forefront of SBA’s executive leadership, initiatives, and programming.”
To further help women, the SBA is holding its 2022 Women’s Business Summit on March 28-30. The summit, consisting of panels, “Ask an Expert” workshops, and fireside chats to help women-owned small businesses build, scale, and grow, will also include in-person salon/listening sessions held by local and regional hosts. The event is co-sponsorship with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center.
To register, click here.
Isabella Casillas Guzman photo courtesy SBA.