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!

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.

Can We Do It? Yes, But When … and How?

We’ve heard a lot of positive news lately about the rise of women – in the workforce, in corporate leadership, and in business ownership:

  • The recent Shriver Report, entitled “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” marks the soon-to-occur occasion of women comprising half of the workforce in the United States,
  • The Center for Women’s Business Research states that a more complete accounting of the economic contribution of women-owned firms should go well beyond their revenues, and estimates that it could be as much as $3 trillion if the purchases of the firms, their employees and their suppliers are included, and
  • The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute recently postulated that, by the year 2018, women-owned firms would account for as much as one-third of new jobs in the US.

Economist cover with Rosie
Most recently, the January 2nd issue of The Economist proudly displayed Rosie the Riveter on the cover, drawing attention to an article, headlined “Female power,” which boldly states that “the economic empowerment of women across the rich world is one of the most remarkable revolutions of the past 50 years.”

Progress has not been uniform, however, as the article correctly states. Developed economies have advanced farther than emerging economies, and – while there is more economic opportunity for women as workers, managers and owners – public policies, programmatic support and cultural views still present barriers to gender equality.

The fact that there is still a rather divided picture and point of view of the economic status of women need go no further than the article on the facing page of The Economist’s cover story. There, in stark contrast to the largely positive tone of “Female power” is the curmudgeonly Schumpeter column, entitled “Womenomics,” which blasts women business owners who want to lead their firms in a more interactive, idealistic, and nurturing manner as misguided. Schumpeter opines that “women would be well advised to ignore the siren voices of feminism,” concluding that “it would be a grave mistake to abandon old-fashioned meritocracy just at the time when it is turning to women’s advantage.”

Well, Womenable would say that if we all behaved ourselves, acted more lady-like and awaited the meritocracy to reward us for our good behavior, we’d be waiting a darn long time. The Schumpeter column admits this, saying that at the current rate of progress it would take 60 years for women to gain equal representation on the boards of the FTSE 100. Similarly, just 15% of board seats on Fortune 500 companies are held by women, and just 13.5% of executive officer positions in these companies are occupied by women. These shares have not risen significantly in recent years, leading Catalyst’s President and CEO Ilene Lang to state, ” The time is up for ‘give it time.'”

We agree. Why should women continue to wait for our turn – or, for that matter, lead and manage our businesses the way it has always been done? While Womenable fully subscribes to the slogan “We Can Do It!” we don’t feel that we’re quite at “We Did It!” yet. And, as to waiting for the meritocracy to reward us for our good behavior, we’d reply with another aphorism: “well-behaved women rarely make history.”

Women-Owned Firms to Create 1/3 of New Jobs by 2018? Not So Fast …

It’s another headline that seems a little bit too good to be true (hearkening back to the October announcement from the National Women’s Business Council and the Center for Women’s Business Research that women-owned firms “create or maintain” fully 23 million jobs, more than three times the number published by the US Census Bureau) – that, by the year 2018, women-owned firms will account for half of all new small business jobs and one-third of all new jobs in the US.

Guardian’s Small Business Research Institute made this announcement in a news release just the other day, saying that these projections are based on a “rigorous analysis of converging factors.” The release goes on to say that these firms will transform the workplace due to women business owners being less hierarchical and more customer-focused.

While Womenable agrees with their findings that many women are launching their enterprises in part to thumb their noses at the corporate rat-race, and that women are more likely to seek fulfillment from enterprise creation which goes beyond making a buck (see our commentary in our most recent e-newsletter), we have our doubts that such a sea-change in the business environment will happen in less than a decade. We would, of course, love to be proven wrong!

To read more about these new projections from the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, click here.