Just 32 years ago, a woman could not get a business loan without a male co-signer.
If that makes you cringe, it should. Since the 1988 passing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act (HR 5050), the United States’ landmark federal legislation allowing women to take out business loans without a male relative as a co-signer, women have been blazing trails, breaking down barriers, and making remarkable contributions to the business world and the economy across every industry. Today:
- Of the 28 million small businesses in the U.S., 39% are woman-owned.
- 9,000,000 people work for a woman-owned business in the U.S.
- $1.7 trillion+ is generated by 11.6 million U.S. woman-owned businesses.
October is National Women Owned Small Business month—a great time to reflect on and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of female entrepreneurs. Woman-owned businesses (WOBs) are:
- Building brands: We’ve all heard of Estee Lauder, Eileen Fisher, Mrs. Fields, and Lillian Vernon—all women entrepreneurs who revolutionized the beauty, fashion, gift catalog, and baking industries. But did you also know that Bark & Co, SlideShare, Birchbox, Cisco, Flickr, Liquid Paper, The Body Shop, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Build-a-Bear Workshop, and Proactive were founded by women?
- Transforming technology: Female entrepreneurs like Helen Greiner and Jessica Matthews are revolutionizing technologies from drones to energy generation. Greiner, the former co-founder of iRobot (the company that brought us the Roomba) is now the founder and CTO of CyPhy Works, which has raised $35 million to make small drones for consumer, industrial, and military use. Last September, CyPhy started working with the UPS Foundation and the American Red Cross to test the use of drones in disaster relief efforts. And Matthews, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the US, is the founder of Uncharted Power, whose energy-generating technology can be embedded in everyday objects that are often in motion, such as strollers and toys, to provide power in developing countries and anywhere without a reliable grid.
The future is bright for female entrepreneurs. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals there’s still lots of work to be done to foster growth of WOBs. Although women lead 4 in 10 businesses in the U.S., most are actually one-woman shows, and female founders who apply for bank loans also receive about 45 percent less money than their male peers.
Many organizations like the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) know that women entrepreneurs provide a growth engine for the U.S. and are still an untapped resource. The SBA provides training opportunities and many resources that female entrepreneurs need to achieve their goals through their Office of Women’s Business Ownership and Women’s Business Centers (WBCs).
It’s an exciting time to be a WBO. If you’re a woman who wants to own a business, go for it! And remember to encourage your daughters, nieces, sisters, wives, mothers, and female friends to pursue their entrepreneurial passion.