Sayonara CWBR, Greetings GIWER

Twenty-five years ago, not too long after the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, the leaders of the National Association of Women Business Owners established a non-profit research arm – the National Foundation for Women Business Owners. The NFWBO, later the Center for Women’s Business Research (CWBR), was responsible for much of the early research exploring the characteristics, contributions and challenges of women business owners and their enterprises. Some of the most frequently-quoted data nuggets included:forkinroad

  • Women-owned businesses employ more workers than the Fortune 500 combined. (“Women-Owned Businesses: The New Economic Force” 1992)
  • The thinking styles of women entrepreneurs as a group – though differing from men entrepreneurs in being more intuitive and more reflective – are, in large part, closer to men business owners than to working women in general. (“Styles of Success: The Thinking and Management Styles of Women and Men Entrepreneurs” 1994)
  • Women-owned businesses are just as financial strong and creditworthy as all U.S. firms, with similar performance on bill payment and similar levels of credit risk. (“Breaking the Boundaries: The Progress and Achievement of Women-Owned Enterprises” 1995)
  • Fully 78% of women business owners spend time volunteering, compared to 48% of all adults in the U.S., 51% of all women, and 56% of all business owners. (“Giving Something Back: Volunteerism Among Women Business Owners in the U.S.” 1996)
  • Today’s generation of women business owners have a different blend of pre-entrepreneurial business experience than women who have been in business 20 years or more. They are more likely to have been in the workforce just prior to launching their business, in a managerial rather than a clerical position. (“Paths to Entrepreneurship: New Directions for Women in Business” 1998)
  • Just 9% of the venture capital deals and 2.3% of the dollars invested by VC firms interviewed went to women-led firms. And among the women entrepreneurs interviewed, those with equity capital (just 6% of those interviewed) were more likely to have obtained it from informal or individual investors rather than from venture capital firms. (“Women Entrepreneurs in the Equity Capital Markets: The New Frontier” 2000)

Well, the Center is officially no more. After several years of financial difficulties and relative inactivity, the assets of the Center will now be housed at Babson College’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, and the Center will be reborn as the Global Initiative for Women’s Entrepreneurship Research, or GIWER. In a recent announcement, Babson College professor, and former chair of CWBR, Patricia R. Greene stated, “This new program advances CWBR’s mission to the global level.” Importantly, from the Womenabler’s point of view, the dozens of research studies published by the Center will be archived at CWEL and will once again be available to researchers, students, and womenablers everywhere.

Kudos to Babson College, its CWEL, and to Patti Greene for preserving the Center’s legacy, and for taking it forward onto the global stage.

On the Importance of Roadmaps

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.

‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.

‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.

‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland (1865)

road to futureOf course, when it comes to navigation, the road taken usually does matter – as it does in women’s enterprise development. That’s why the focus of this Womenable WED Brief is on roadmaps for women’s entrepreneurship. The occasion is the recent release of a report, A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment, from the United Nations Foundation and ExxonMobil. While the report has a development focus and some specific areas of emphasis (farming and youth), it does contain some good recommendations for women’s entrepreneurship writ large, such as the fact that access to capital alone will not advance the growth of women-owned firms, and that access to education alone (especially of the “primary level” variety) will likewise not lead to an increase in the number of women-owned wealth- and job-creating firms. Check out the report and other related information (such as some interesting videos) at

As valuable as this roadmap report is, there are three other roadmaps for women’s enterprise development of note: the US-focused 2010 report from Quantum Leaps: A Roadmap to 2020: Fueling the Growth of Women’s Enterprise Development; the 2003 Canadian Prime Minister’s Task Force Report on Women Entrepreneurs; and the 2003 UK government’s Strategic Framework for Women’s Enterprise. All are available for your reference at Womenable’s Virtual Reference Shelf.