New York City Tops New Womenabling Cities Index

A new accounting of the most supportive cities for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs was recently released at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, just ahead of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The WE Cities Index lists the 25 cities globally that provide the most supportive capital, technology, talent, culture and markets for growth-oriented women, a population they refer to as “high potential women entrepreneurs.” Those cities are:DellWECitieschart

  1. New York City
  2. the San Francisco Bay Area
  3. London
  4. Stockholm
  5. Singapore
  6. Toronto
  7. Washington, DC
  8. Sydney
  9. Paris
  10. Seattle
  11. Munich
  12. Austin
  13. Beijing
  14. Hong Kong
  15. Taipei
  16. Shanghai
  17. Tokyo
  18. Mexico City
  19. São Paulo
  20. Seoul
  21. Milan
  22. Delhi
  23. Johannesburg
  24. Jakarta
  25. Istanbul

For an interactive look at how each of these cities ranks in the five major index areas, visit this web page.

The WE Cities Index follows on the heels of the Global Women Entrepreneurs Scorecard, which was released the prior year. That effort analyzed 21 variables in a five-element framework, and ranked 31 countries around the globe for their supportive policies and programs to help women scale their enterprises. The findings of the country-focused effort (which was supported in part from Womenable) were highlighted in this Womenable blogpost from 2015.

Tops on that list were the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom — home to nine of the 25 top-ranked global cities for women entrepreneurs who are shooting for the stars. Godspeed on your journey, ladies!

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Reflections on Building a Sustainable Women’s Enterprise Ecosystem

In November, I attended and spoke at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship‘s pre-conference women’s enterprise policy day. My 25-minute presentation was entitled, “Building a Women’s Enterprise Movement That Will Stand the Test of Time: Lessons From the U.S.‘” It aimed to reflect on the recent silver anniversary of the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, to share lessons learned from the U.S. experience, and to offer observations of the common elements that bolster and strengthen a healthy and vibrant women’s enterprise ecosystem – which could be adapted for a variety of political systems and development contexts.

Here, then, is a Slideshare Slidecast of the presentation, which you can watch and listen to as you munch on your lunch. Or, fellow womenablers, feel free to download it and play it at your next women’s business organization member gathering or networking event to fuel further discussion about what ideas you might take forward in your own community. Go forth and multiply!

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 womeneconroadmap.org.

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.

Policy Spark Plugs for Women’s Entrepreneurship

October 25th, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 in the United States – which is frequently referred to as the “big bang” of women’s enterprise. The law extended equal access to business credit to women business owners, directed the US Census Bureau to include all women-owned firms in its business census, established the women’s business center technical assistance program, and established the National Women’s Business Council – giving women business owners a seat at the federal policymaking table.sparkplug

What other spark plugs for women’s enterprise are out there? My fellow womenablers might want to check out the former Gender Law Library at the World Bank, now part of the Women, Business and the Law website. You can search by country or topic, and you may also wish to download the new 2014 Women, Business and the Law report. Regional fact sheets are also available.

Women’s enterprise development does not always have to be sparked by legislative action. In May 2003, a Strategic Framework for Women’s Enterprise was launched by the Labour government in the United Kingdom, which led to a number of positive programs for women’s enterprise development. Unfortunately, a party-launched initiative can fall by the wayside when leadership changes hands – as happened in the UK in 2010, when Conservative David Cameron became Prime Minister and promptly cut funding for women’s entrepreneurship, and indeed for small business development support in general.

This happened as well in Canada,  not too long after their Prime Minister’s Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs – Report and Recommendations was unveiled with great promise but unfulfilled potential. The report was launched in October 2003 – just two months before Prime Minister Jean Chretien left office. Even though his successor was of the same party, the initiative did not gain traction.

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!

Measuring the BEE for WOBs in LAC

Taking on those who might attribute gender gaps in business performance to differences in entrepreneurial drive, commitment or motivation, there is a growing body of analysis focused on how the business-enabling environment (BEE) affects the development of women-owned businesses (WOBs). We womenablers are well aware that a woman entrepreneur can be as committed and motivated as all get-out, but her enterprise will not grow as strongly as one owned by her male peers if (for example) she cannot own property in her own name – thereby depriving her of the collateral needed to fuel the growth of her business via access to capital.
WEVS_cover

Property ownership and capital access are among the 49 input variables in five key categories (security & stability, business climate, finance, capacity and social services) that are codified and analyzed in a new regional assessment of women’s entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The WEVentureScope, from the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), was announced in a launch event last week. Featuring speakers from the MIF, the Economist Intelligence Unit, which conducted the analysis (and which brought us the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index), and a panel of experts, the event announced the availability of a summary report as well as a marvelously interactive web site (www.weventurescope.com) which allows users to change the weighting of different factors and see how it affects a country’s overall score.

At present, the WEVentureScope analyzes and ranks 20 countries in the region – ensuring coverage across the region but focusing on countries with a higher level of data availability. In this inaugural effort, these five countries lead the list:

  • Chile (scoring 64.8 out of a possible 100):
  • Peru (62.4);
  • Columbia (61.8);
  • Mexico (60.2): and
  • Uruguay (60.0).

During the announcement event (which you can watch at your leisure by clicking on the link to the archived event below – the event starts at 1:45:00 and runs just under 2 hours), the point was made that, even among these top-ranked countries, there is much room for improvement, given that the top score is just two-thirds of the way to a perfect score of 100. Speakers also mentioned the challenge of comparative data, and the hope that a report such as this will spur more governments to start keeping the sort of sex-disaggregated data and statistics that could add new countries to this effort in future years.

Women’s Entrepreneurial VentureScope Launch Event

Visit the web site to learn more, read the news release, download the report, and play with the weighting of different environmental factors.

This effort is an important step forward in understanding the barriers to entry and growth of women-owned firms in the region, and to informing policy and programmatic action to support their improved success. ¡Viva las mujeres empresarias!

A New Measurement of Support for Women’s Entrepreneurship

The Womenabler has long lamented the lack of a business-enabling environment (BEE) assessment that takes the special challenges facing would-be and established women business owners into account. Traditional BEE assessments (such as The World Bank’s Doing Business indicators or the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom) are “gender-blind,” thus ignoring both the legal and cultural impediments that exist for women in many countries when they attempt to start or grow businesses. And, at the same time, gender equality indices (such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap reports, the Economist Intelligence female figure on map of EuropeUnit’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, or the UN’s Gender Empowerment Measure) do not include entrepreneurial measures as among the factors assessed. And, interestingly, the top-ranked countries in each of these two distinct types of environmental assessments share exactly 0 countries in common. (See the paper, “Assessing Business-Enabling Environments: How Gender Changes the Equation,” presented by Womenable CEO Julie Weeks in 2011 at both an academic conference and a meeting of national policy institutions.)

Now, into the breach, comes an exciting new project: Gender-GEDI. Spearheaded by a team at George Mason University that also developed the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (hence GEDI), this new index insist of 30 evaluation factors, aggregated into 15 pillars and three main environmental elements: entrepreneurial environment, entrepreneurial eco-system and entrepreneurial aspirations. The pilot effort assessing the individual, institutional and legal environment for high-potential women’s entrepreneurship includes 17 countries – picked to represent a variety of regions and development contexts. Who came out on top? Here’s the list:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Mexico
  6. United Kingdom
  7. South Africa
  8. China
  9. Malaysia
  10. Russia
  11. Turkey
  12. Japan
  13. Morocco
  14. Brazil
  15. Egypt
  16. India
  17. Uganda

This new analysis was underwritten by Dell, and released today at their 4th annual Women’s Entrepreneur Network gathering in Istanbul, Turkey. Womenable was pleased to have played a role as an advisor on this effort, and we look forward to expanding the analysis to additional countries in the future (pending funding, of course!)

Click on these links to learn more about Gender-GEDI, a news release summary of the findings of this important new analysis, and to download and read the 22-page white paper.