The Most Womenabling Research Studies of 2010

In tandem with our list of the top ten womenabling news and events of the year – highlighted in the previous blogpost – we’d now like to share our list of the most noteworthy womenabling research reports of 2010. Here they are, listed in alphabetical order by report title.

You might notice that there are 11 rather than a “top ten,” but we couldn’t decide which one to take out. And we might even have had 12 if we’d only seen a GEM women’s entrepreneurship report this year …

Take a look at these important studies, and save them in your womenabling reference files. Happy New Year!

The Most Womenabling News of 2010

In our year-end e-newsletter, rather than summarizing the latest womenabling news and providing womenablers everywhere with insights to educate, enlighten and empower your efforts, we’re ending the year by compiling what we feel are the most interesting and relevant activities that have taken place in the field of women’s enterprise development in 2010. Repeated here, and in no particular order, are what we see as the ten most noteworthy trends and events of the year:

  1. The establishment of UN Women: It’s been talked about and touted for a number of years, and this year it finally happened: the merging of heretofore disparate UN activities for and about women into one “super agency” for women: the “UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women,”  otherwise known as UN Women. This entity will oversee efforts formerly under the purview of the UN’s Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Heading the new combined entity is former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. What do you need to know about the new agency and how you can engage with it? Read this.
  2. Expansion of women’s empowerment measurements: Where does women’s economic empowerment stand? Some of the most well-known measurements of women’s empowerment include the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap reports, the UN’s GDI and GEM measurements, and the OECD’s Gender, Institutions and Development Data Base. However, all of these include several other measures (including health, education and political participation) as well as economic empowerment and, with respect to the latter, focus on women as workers rather than business owners. There are the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s reports on women and entrepreneurship but, sadly, one has not been published since 2007. This year, though, saw the addition of two new kids on the block, and both of these indicators focus entirely on economic empowerment, and specifically on entrepreneurship. They are the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, and a new GenderCLIR methodology for BEE assessment from USAID/Booz Allen Hamilton.
  3. A picture’s worth a thousand words: The International Museum of Women launched a powerful online exhibition this year, Economica: Women and the Global Economy. One project within the exhibition is Picturing Power & Potential, a juried photo exhibit which proves the adage and is well worth a look. Bookmark and return to the site as they add to it in the coming year.
  4. Recognition of “The Female Factor” in some media circles, but …: The International Herald Tribune has written a number of compelling articles about women’s empowerment issues this year as a part of their series, “The Female Factor.” And Canada’s Globe and Mail launched a national conversation about Women in Power during Women’s History Month in Canada (October). Despite this nice coverage, however, a recent study, Who Makes the News? The Global Media Monitoring Report 2010, finds that women’s voices and stories – especially about economic issues – are still largely untold in the news media.
  5. Second interval review for MDGs: In 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, 189 world leaders planted an ambitious flag in the ground, agreeing on eight Millennium Development Goals aimed at eliminating world poverty by 2015. (Our favorite: #3, gender equity.) A “second interval” review of the progress being made on meeting those goals was held this year, including the publication of an MDG report and the convening of an MDG summit. The bottom line? Progress is indeed being made, but in many cases is uneven, affecting some populations and not others. Here’s a report card showing some of the details. While this review shows that much remains to be done to meet the 2015 deadline, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.” (William Shakespeare)
  6. Progress stalled for WED in UK: Last year, in our year-end top trends E-newsletter, we noted the implosion of Prowess – the UK’s key advocacy organization for women’s economic empowerment. Well, things have gone from bad to worse in the UK for women’s enterprise development with the election of a   Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government. As  feared/expected, one of the new government’s first acts was declaring  that Business Link and Regional Development Agencies would be phased  out, in favor of Local Enterprise Partnerships. It remains to be seen how this will impact focused/tailored business support services such as the women’s business centre pilot programme, but our guess is that it won’t be positive.
  7. A new ED and Chair for NWBC: Another issue we followed with interest last year (though it did not make our top ten list) was stalled activity at the National Women’s Business Council in the wake of the 2008 US presidential election. Well, things are starting to move once again, with the hiring of a new executive director, Dana Lewis, and the appointment of a new chair, Donna James. Filling Council seats and revving up Council activities should commence in 2011. Women’s business advocates in the US are relieved.
  8. Quinquennial census of women-owned firms in the US: Say what you will about the growing hegemony of political and economic power worldwide, the United States still rocks when it comes to measuring the number and economic power of women-owned businesses. The  2007 quinquennial economic census of women-owned firms was published this year. Womenable summarizes the key trends for you in this blogpost.
  9. Progress in procurement: Doing business with the US government is getting easier for women-owned businesses. Finally, after a ten-year wait, a women-owned business procurement program is finally going to be launched by the SBA early next year. Not content to wait for this to happen, late in 2008 Women Impacting Public Policy, with the support of American Express OPEN, launched a “Give Me 5%” initiative (which refers to the gov’t-wide spending goal for women-owned firms) to educate women business owners on how to do business with the federal government. Where do things stand with respect to meeting that 5% goal? Federal spending with women-owned firms stands at 3.7% as of FY2009, up from 2.4% a decade earlier but still well short of the goal.
  10. Making market connections: There are two new initiatives poised to help women business owners globally make significant market connections with another important customer: large corporations. First is WEConnect International, an organization that was founded in 2009 but started to get its sea legs this year with the launch of WEConnect Europe and an event in London this October. WEConnect’s goal is to make it easier for large corporations to find women-owned business suppliers and for women-owned firms to learn how to do business with large corporations. And speaking of large corporations, one of them – Coca-Cola (ranked 404 on Fortune’s Global 500 largest companies) – announced a “reach for the stars” goal at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative conference. Coke’s “5 by 20” project aims to draw 5 million women into its Micro Distribution Center program in Africa and elsewhere by the year 2020.

Women Business Owners Embrace Social Media Marketing

A new survey from the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute shows that women business owners place higher value and are significantly more likely to embrace social media marketing tools than are their male counterparts. The newly-released research report, “Prioritizing the Value of Technology to America’s Small Business Owners: Assessing the Importance of Software, Company Websites and Social Media,” finds that:

“Gender differences regarding the importance of technology are striking. According to The Guardian Life Index, women small business owners are far more likely to embrace technology in all its forms and applications than their male counterparts. Significantly, women entrepreneurs value social media at three times the level of male small business owners. The Institute’s research has previously shown that women entrepreneurs are more customer-focused and more likely to incorporate community into their business plans than male small business owners. These traits may explain why women small business owners are more inclined to embrace new tools like social media to engage with customers and build communities of interest.”


The study also finds that use of social media tools is much higher among younger business owners, and declines with age, and that usage rises along with company size.

Here are some of the most striking gender differences uncovered in the survey. Respondents were given a list of items and asked to rate them on a scale from -10 to +10. When asked “What matters most to you in business when it comes to technology, such as software your company uses and its websites, as well as what is commonly called “social media”?

Statement Total Avg. Men Women
Using ‘social media’ as a tool for communicating about our company 0.8 0.5 1.6
Using ‘social media’ as a way to find out about prospective clients or prospects 0.8 0.5 1.6
Using ‘social media’ as a business building tool 0.7 0.4 1.4
Using ‘social media’ as a means of personal growth and development 0.7 0.5 1.3
Using ‘social media’ as a way to find out more about the marketplace 0.6 0.4 1.2
Using ‘social media’ as a way to learn more about our competitors 0.5 0.3 1.0

And, speaking of social media, the study release was accompanied by a YouTube video (click on link below) profiling how one woman business owner is using technology tools in her business, as well as a podcast interview with Institute director Mark Wolf.

To learn more about the study, CLICK HERE to read the news release, CLICK HERE to read a brief executive summary of the study, or CLICK HERE to download the 12-page survey summary report.

The research was conducted online in June 2010 among 1,200 small business owners with between 2 and 99 employees, and focusing on 12 industry sectors, 9 regions and 4 key states. The sample was pulled from a Harris Interactive panel pool of respondents, so the sample is likely not representative of all small business owners – it is likely to be more tech-savvy than average. Nonetheless, the differences seen within this sample are quite noteworthy.

Trends Among Women-Owned Enterprises in the US: Insights from New Census Data

Back in July, the US Census Bureau published preliminary estimates of the number and overall growth of women-owned enterprises as of 2007 at a national level. At that time, we learned that:

  • There are 7.8 million majority women-owned firms in the US, accounting for 29% of all businesses in the country,
  • These enterprises employ 7.6 million workers, contributing 6% of the jobs in the country, and
  • These firms generate $1.2 trillion in revenues, accounting for 4% of all business receipts nationally.

Just yesterday, however, the Census Bureau released the final numbers, along with more detailed figures at the state and local level, as well as by industry and size level of the firm. What does this new information show? While there is still a lot of data for Womenable and other womenablers to sift through (and sift we shall), we thought that all of you would be interested in our key first impressions and take-aways from this recent announcement. We have three initial impressions to share with you.

FIRST, women-owned firms are still growing – but that growth lies in partnership. As of 2007, as noted above, the number of majority women-owned firms stands at 7.8 million, accounting for 29% of all businesses. That number represents a 20% increase since the 2002 census, about equal to the 18% seen among all firms. However, lest you think that is a retreat from the “women-owned firms are growing at twice the national average” mantra of the past decade, the Census has improved the way it is tallying equally-owned firms. Those firms grew in number from 2.7 million to 4.6 million, a 71% increase. So, if one were to look at “women- and equally-owned” firm growth over the past five years (which I personally do not like to do, as it becomes synonymous with “women-owned firms” and thus confuses the statistical picture and international comparisons), growth among that population stands at 35%, which is nearly twice the 18% national rate. There is also hidden women-led firm growth in the “unclassifiable by gender” category – which grew in number by 63% over the past five years. While these firms represent only 3% of US firms, they account for 64% of revenues and 52% of all employment. It is in this area that we need more research and dissection – to parse out and tally the impact of plurality women-owned firms (which we like to think of as women-led – and which would include women-founded firms with equity partners or venture capital investments) and women-led social enterprises (which are of increasing interest but have not yet been looked at separately in Census data).

SECOND, we now can see where women-owned firms are faring best in terms of industry and geography. From a geographic perspective, taking a look at what states are host to the greatest share of women-owned firms, we can see that the share of women-owned firms by state ranges from a low of 22.1% in South Dakota to a high of 34.5% in the District of Columbia. There are three states in which the share of women-owned firms is 31% or greater: Maryland (32.6%), New Mexico (31.7%), and Hawaii (31%). It seems that it pays to be close to the Nation’s Capital – confirmation, perhaps, of the importance of the implementation of the Women-Owned Small Business Procurement Program by the US Small Business Administration, which will be unveiled next February.

In terms of industry, the publication of the 2007 census now allows, for the first time, a multi-year analysis of growth by gender and industry using the new North American Industry Classification System (NAICS codes). Implemented for the first time in the 2002 Census (preventing us, unfortunately, from taking a longer view of growth by industry), we can now see what the “hot industries” for women-owned firms are, and they are:

  • Administrative services (think personnel/temp agencies, travel agencies, investigative services, janitorial or landscaping services, and trade show organizers): this sector represents 10% of women-owned firms and has grown (in number of firms) by 38% over the past five years,
  • Educational services (including business/secretarial and computer training providers, language schools, and exam preparation/tutoring), which is home to 4% of all women-owned firms, growing in number by 44% since 2002,
  • Arts/Entertainment/Recreation Services (including performing arts agents, companies and artists, golf courses, marinas and ski facilities, and amusement parks): 5% of women-owned firms, up 30% over the past five years, and
  • Construction firms, representing 3% of all women-owned businesses, an increase of 33% since 2002.

THIRD, and perhaps most importantly, women-owned firms have not gained ANY significant economic ground over the past five years. (It should be noted that these data do not include our most recent recessionary period.) In 2002, 2% of all women-owned firms employed 50 or more workers. That share is unchanged today. And, while the total number of million-dollar women-owned firms has grown by 21% over the past five years (from 117,069 to 141,893), compared to a 9% increase among men-owned firms – these firms still only comprise a 2% share of women-owned firms, unchanged from the share seen in the 2002 Census. Perhaps most importantly, when compared to men-owned firms, women-owned firms still lag behind: 4% of men-owned firms employ 50 or more workers, and 6% generate $1 million or more in revenue. While we take exception to the gloom-and-doom interpretation of the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce report, Women’s Businesses Struggle for Market Share (we have not lost “market share” but neither have we gained any), we strongly feel that what is needed – by public policy makers, women’s business organizations, educators and other stakeholders – is a concerted and better coordinated effort to get women business owners to set their growth goals higher. In the US (unlike in many other countries), getting women to start businesses is not the challenge; it is getting women business owners to “think bigger” and to grow their firms to the next level. These new data confirm what Womenable has known for quite some time – that the “sweet spot” for women’s enterprise development in the next decade or more will be the “missing middle.” That is why organizations like WEConnect International, Count Me In’s Make Mine a Million $ Business initiative, and WIPP’s Give Me 5% program are so critically important.

If you’re curious to learn more about the new Census data, you might want to visit these links:

  • The Census Bureau’s news release highlighting key statistics, in English and in Spanish,
  • The web page containing links to key tables and charts pertaining to women-owned businesses, and
  • The American Fact Finder summary page of key web-based data tables from the Survey of Business Owners (SBO).

Finally, mark your womenabling calendars for June 2011 – that’s when the Census Bureau will release their summary SBO data, which will contain information on the number and economic contributions of firms owned by women of color. We’ll be waiting for that important news, and will share the results when they are available.