Global Entrepreneurship Week Adds Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

GEW_mainLaunched with great fanfare by the Kauffman Foundation in 2007, Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrates the creative spirit and transformative power of entrepreneurs – taking a “Pied Piper” approach to encourage more people to think about “unleashing ideas” and launching entrepreneurial endeavors. Starting with 37 countries in 2007, there is now engagement in 150 countries in this, the eight year of the celebration. The 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week takes place from November 17th to the 23rd.

What is this all about, you may ask? Check out the brief explanatory video below:

Why are we sharing this with you, fellow womenablers? Because, for the first time, the folks at GEW are adding in an official Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on Wednesday, November 19. (The midweek point has been used in a number of countries to mark the contributions of women entrepreneurs, but this year marks its official debut.)

Check out the list of events already scheduled on this day, or during the entire week, in your country. Or – better yet – consider organizing an event on the 19th to celebrate women’s entrepreneurship! Check out the GEW/WED page for ideas and resources. The GEW folks are “leading by example” by planning an event at the United Nations in New York City. More information about that particular event can be found HERE.

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Silicon Valley Kerfuffle on Women in STEM

There’s been a bit of a flare-up in the blogosphere on the topic of (the lack of) women in technology/computer programming. A recent interview with the co-founder of the tech incubator Y Combinator, Paul Graham, is what set it off.
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Among other things, he said, “God knows what you would do to get 13 year old girls interested in computers. I would have to stop and think about that,” which has been interpreted a variety of ways: as yet another example of misogyny in the tech world … or as simply acknowledging the fact that there are a dearth of female programmers and female-founded tech companies.

The question, of course, is what to do about it. Will widening the narrow mindsets of venture capitalists be enough? We think not. It’ll take a combination of push and pull – of priming the pump with more STEM education and mentorship aimed at girls AND creating a more welcoming (or at least less hostile) environment in the post-secondary and start-up worlds.

Some of the great groups and initiatives that are doing their bit to open doors include:

As they say, it takes a village.

A Sterling Milestone

Marking the Silver Anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988

This month marks a sterling anniversary – the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. The law, also affectionately known as H.R. (House Resolution) 5050, was signed into law on October 25, 1988. It ushered in a true renaissance of growth and progress for women’s enterprise development. Womenablers often refer to the WBO Act of 1988 as the ‘big bang” of women’s entrepreneurship.

NAWBO leader Susan Hager testifies at the HR5050 hearings

NAWBO leader Susan Hager testifies at the HR5050 hearings (photo by Olive Rosen)

There were four main tenets of the law:

  1. Capital: The law extended the gender equality of access to credit provided in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 to include business credit. Just think, prior to 1988 women business owners could not get business credit in their own name!
  2. Capitol: The Act also established the National Women’s Business Council, which provides the women’s business community with a seat at the table in the US Capitol and in federal policy circles. The NWBC is comprised of individual women business owners and representatives of women’s business organizations, and must submit an annual report to the President, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration each year. Read past annual reports HERE to learn what recommendations the NWBC has made to federal policymakers.
  3. Counseling: The law also launched a “demonstration project” of entrepreneurial education and counseling focused on female clients. From four initial pilot programs in 1989 has grown over 100 women’s business centers today, providing technical assistance, education, coaching and counseling, group and peer-to-peer mentoring, and ongoing support to both would-be and existing women (and men) business owners. Many former clients come back and teach and mentor. Do you have a skill or a story to share with budding entrepreneurs? Find a women’s business center near you and volunteer!
  4. Counting: Finally, the law directed the U.S. Census Bureau to include ALL women-owned businesses in their next quinquennial census. Up until that time, the census did not include all industries or all legal forms of business organization. Upon the publication of the 1992 Census in 1995, when C corporations were included for the first time, the number of women-owned firms increased by just 9%, but employment jumped by 111% and revenues generated by women-owned firms skyrocketed by 145%. Women-owned firms were finally on the map!

Take a moment and think about how much easier it is for women starting businesses now than it was for our foremothers prior to 1988 – when there were no women’s business centers, no complete accounting of the number and economic clout of women-owned businesses, no National Women’s Business Council, and no ability to access business credit without a male co-signer.

Some folks are already taking note of the impending anniversary. Click on the following links to read a blogpost from CAMEO (the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity), an op-ed piece from Connecticut WDBC director (and NWBC council member) Fran Pastore, and an article from WIPP co-founder Barbara Kasoff. And check out what we had to say five years ago at the 20th anniversary during a panel discussion at an academic conference!

And stay tuned – women’s enterprise leaders are talking now about gathering en masse next Spring to celebrate the accomplishments of the past 25 years and talk more seriously about what the movement – and women business owners – need going forward.

In the meantime, we’d like to start a social media conversation about the past 25 years of women’s entrepreneurship. Tweet and post your thoughts about the progress we’ve made, and the work that’s yet to be done. Use the hashtag #WBOAct@25. What are your thoughts, reflections, calls to action? Ready, set, go!

The State of Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S. in 2013

With the support of American Express OPEN, Womenable has reported on trends in the growth and development of women-owned enterprises, drawing upon detailed information from the U.S. Census Bureau, since 2011.

In our inaugural report, The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2011, we provided up-to-date estimates on the number, employment and revenues of women-owned firms, and shared the insight that – despite above-average growth in the number of firms – women-owned businesses were not progressing up the business size continuum.
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Our 2012 report, The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2012, again provided up-to-date estimates of the number and growth of women-owned firms, and took a more detailed look at the economic clout of women-owned firms regionally and within industry – finding that women-owned firms in two industries (construction and transportation) were standing toe-to-toe with their industry peers with respect to the share generating $500,000+ in revenues.

With our most recent installment in the series, The 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2013, we again provide women business owners and their associations, supporters of women’s business development and other stakeholders with the most comprehensive review and analysis of the current health and well-being of women-owned firms in the United States – as well as in all 50 states and the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. Further, the report expands its focus this year to look at the phenomenal growth of firms owned by women of color.

Among this year’s key findings are:

  • As of 2013, it is estimated that there are over 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating over $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.8 million people. The growth in the number, revenues and employment of women-owned firms over the past 16 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the very largest, publicly-traded corporations in the country;
  • Indeed, when looking specifically at the 2007-2013 period – since just before the start of the recent recession – the net increase of 5.3 million jobs economy-wide has come almost entirely from very large public corporations … AND women-owned firms. During the past six years, employment in women-owned and equally-owned firms has fallen;
  • The states in which growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned firms has been the strongest since 1997 are the District of Columbia, North Dakota, Nevada, Wyoming and Georgia. San Antonio TX, Portland OR, Houston TX, Riverside CA, and Washington DC/MD/VA are the fastest-growing metro areas for women-owned businesses;
  • In 1997, there were just under 1 million (929,445) firms owned by women of color, accounting for one in six (17%) women-owned firms. That number has skyrocketed to an estimated 2,677,700 as of 2013, and now comprises one in three (31%) women-owned firms;
  • While firms owned by women of color are smaller than non-minority women-owned businesses both in terms of average employment and revenues, their growth in number and economic clout is generally far outpacing that of all women-owned firms. Indeed, the growth in the number of African American (up 258% from 1997 to 2013), Asian American (+156%), Latina (+180%), Native American/ Alaska Native (108%), and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (+216%) women-owned firms all top the growth in the number of non-minority women-owned firms (+32%) over the past 16 years.

You may download and read the complete 71-page report by visiting openforum.com/womensbusinessreport or clicking on the link above. You may also wish to download and read the news release for the report.

Lean In Sparks Push Back

Leaning in: It began, perhaps, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s December 2010 TEDWomen talk on why there are so few women leaders (which has now garnered 2.1 million views on TED.com and YouTube). Her ideas were further refined in her May 2011 commencement speech at Barnard College, and have now been expanded and formalized into a new book, Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which is – in true social media fashion – feeding into the launch of a web-based community, leanin.org.
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All of these missives revolve around Sandberg’s view that too many women shy away from stepping up to the plate at the workplace, muffling their own ambitions and thereby short-changing their careers. On the face of it, not too controversial, but my, oh my what a firestorm of responses her views have sparked! Womenable pointed to the juxtaposition of the TEDWomen talk and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s counterpoint piece in the July/August 2012 issue of the Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All, as one of the top womenabling news and events of 2012.

The well-orchestrated March 11th publication of Sandberg’s book has been met with a firestorm of commentary, however, not all of it positive. Here’s just a selection of related op-eds and direct commentary and coverage:

What is our view on all of this? Well, we have a few thoughts and reactions to this recent firestorm:

  1. This is a very western, industrialized economy conversation. In nearly 3/4 of countries around the world (specifically 141 economies investigated by the World Bank in their Women, Business and the Law report), women are at a legal disadvantage compared to men in one or more areas – so no matter how hard they lean in, they may not achieve equality of opportunity;
  2. The “lean in” exhortation ignores the double standard to which many women in the workplace are held. Frequently, exhibiting ambition and leaning in are met with resistance, undercutting, and being labeled a “rhymes with witch;” and
  3. This discussion is very much taking place in a corporate environment. In particular, it ignores the fact that many women (perhaps after leaning in to no avail) are taking their futures in their own hands, and are starting their own businesses. (Of course, in our entrepreneurial world, there is a similar conversation about why more women business owners are not scaling the heights of entrepreneurial success.)

All that said, of course, what may be the most important point is that, by circling our feminist wagons and shooting down a message and point of view from an important and visible woman business leader, we may damage our collective cause. After all, as pointedly observed by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

So here’s what we say: all views are welcome, and many strategies are needed. We not only need to lean in, we need to push back, raise voices, change laws and change minds to advance the cause of equality of opportunity for all.

14th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report Published

The 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor was recently unveiled at an event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (ranked 12th in the world on the ease of doing business in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings).
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This is the 14th year for the unique and impactful international effort. Starting in 1999 with 10 countries, the GEM collaboration now includes 69 world economies accounting for 87% of global GDP.

Of special interest to we womenablers, of course, is the ongoing accounting of the continuing gap in the share of adult females starting and growing businesses compared to their male counterparts. In nearly every region of the world, women are less likely to be starting new enterprises or to own established businesses.

The new report, however, indicates that the gender gap in business ownership has virtually disappeared in sub-Saharan Africa. The gap is widest in the Middle East and North Africa, where men are 2.8 times as likely as women to own a business.

Conversely, according to the new report, there are five countries in which entrepreneurship rates among women are actually higher than among men: Ecuador, Ghana, Nigeria, Panama, and Thailand.

To learn more about the report GEM and this latest effort, read the recent news release, visit the GEM website, or download the report.

Finally, check out the series of special reports on women and entrepreneurship, the most recent of which was published in 2011.

NWBC Annual Report Published

The annual report from the National Women’s Business Council was issued just before the end of the year, and not only contains an abundance of statistics but a succinct set of policy recommendations, in keeping with their mandate to represent the interests of women business owners and their enterprises in federal policy-making circles.NWBC_2012AnnualReport_cover

Perhaps the most important text in the report, however, is the description of how the Council has changed its operating procedures to ensure greater continuity of operations, and their recommendations for more active engagement with respect to member nominations and closer monitoring of council member terms. Making these changes would prevent what has happened all too frequently over the past decade – the expiration of a majority of member terms at or near the same time, with a corresponding lag in re-nominations, leading to long periods of inactivity by the Council. This serves no one – not federal policymakers and certainly not the women’s business community. Improving this situation could be the best thing that the NWBC has done in a long time!

To read and download the 2012 NWBC annual report, click on THIS LINK.