Women have made historical progress in powering the latest small business boom happening all over the world. More women who are small business owners have been successful in the past few years than at any other point in American history, according to Guidant Financial. Not only has the number of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. nearly doubled from 2019 to 2021 alone (Gusto 2022 survey), but research from Harvard Business Review and Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows nearly 1 in 5 Black women in the U.S. now run a new business or are launching one, outpacing every other demographic group.
For women entrepreneurs starting businesses, there are often gender-specific obstacles to overcome in order to get started, including limited access to financial information, assets and resources. However, when women-led small businesses succeed, they are able to contribute to building the economy by creating jobs and opportunities. In fact, even more good can happen to serve those communities if women business owners are encouraged and supported. Despite the challenges of the last few years, which have impacted all small business owners, women-owned small businesses continue to demonstrate resilience and show their adaptability by leveraging smarter technology and digital tools.
As we head into Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and Small Business Saturday, let’s take a look at the unique challenges women entrepreneurs and Small to Medium-sized Business (SMB) owners face, how technology is being leveraged to scale women-owned SMBs as well as various ways we all can support women-led SMBs.
What are the Unique Challenges Women Entrepreneurs and SMB Owners Face?
It’s no secret women business leaders have a steeper road to success than men. Aside from having limited access to financial information, funding, assets and resources, women also face discrimination, fewer career advancement opportunities, lower wages and a disproportionate share of housework and childcare responsibilities. According to World Bank’s Female Entrepreneurship Resource Point, there are 8 to 10 million women founders of small businesses that were launched across the developing world. Despite this women-led small business boom, women continue to face numerous constraints that limit their opportunities to grow and sustain a business.
In 2021, venture funding in the U.S. reached a record $332.8 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Association, however, only 2.4% of VC funding went to companies founded by women. The recent Global Gender Gap Report 2022 conducted by the World Economic Forum cites that since the peak of the pandemic, women have lost more working hours than men due to childcare and homemaking responsibilities. Furthermore, a study by Simply Business in the U.K. shows 91% of women entrepreneurs say gender bias and inequality are prevalent in business with 32% of the 800 women business owners surveyed experiencing sexism and 19% experiencing gender inequality.
SMB ownership and entrepreneurialism can advance economic equality for women, but there must be equal opportunities to secure funding, information, services, technology and tools to overcome these obstacles and fulfill their potential.
How Technology is Supporting/Growing Women-owned Businesses
Breaking the glass ceiling is never easy and attempting to do so while balancing work and family is even harder. Still, women continue to persevere by launching businesses and pushing limits. These businesses contribute to the economic and social fabric of our communities and they are carving a path forward by harnessing the power of technology to make it happen.
Recent research from Meta shows women have tapped into technology and are finding success by shifting their businesses online. In fact, 57% of women-led small businesses globally are using digital tools to communicate with customers, whereas less than half of businesses led by men are doing the same. Leveraging technology such as social media business profiles and groups, as a sales resource has resulted in nearly half of women-led small businesses in the U.S. reporting that they are making 25% or more of their sales digitally, compared to 39% of small businesses led by men.
When it comes to starting a small business, efficiency is crucial. Technology is our greatest asset when it comes to streamlining tasks, sales, and instantly engaging with the community, at any time. Leveraging tools like a portable laptop or powerful desktop PC built for business as well as advanced technology such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, payment processing programs, cybersecurity solutions, inventory management software, AI, the cloud or 5G, can improve automation, efficiency and productivity, allowing SMBs to flourish. By using technology to grow and adapt with the digital world, women continue to demonstrate resilience by shifting their businesses online.
Ways to Support Women-led and Owned SMBs Locally and Globally
Women-run businesses are steadily growing in local communities and around the world, continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible. On average, women-owned businesses grow faster, which means women have a higher potential for creating more employment opportunities that ultimately strengthen and contribute to the economic growth of communities.
Women entrepreneurs make a significant impact when it comes to economic growth and reducing poverty around the world. According to data from The World Bank, women-owned businesses in the U.S. are growing at more than double the rate of all other firms, contributing nearly $3 trillion to the economy and are directly responsible for 23 million jobs.
By actively supporting women’s advancement at work, creating more incentives for women to start businesses and buying from small businesses owned by women from all socioeconomic groups, we can help grow companies that not only provide household incomes but contribute to local economies.
Why Everyone’s Support Matters
The World Economic Forum estimates it will take 151 years to close the global gender gap in women’s economic opportunity and attainment. That’s why it’s critical to create policies and programs as well as democratize technology that encourage and support women in pursuing entrepreneurship.
We can all benefit from a thriving community and economy, so there’s never been a better time to support women entrepreneurs, business leaders and women-owned SMBs that help our local and global communities flourish.
Eric Yu is the SVP & GM, WW SMB Segment at Lenovo.
Photo courtesy: Lenovo