It amazes me that in my lifetime—only 30 years ago—women business owners needed a male co-signer to get a business loan. In 1988, the Women’s Business Ownership Act helped open up access to capital for women entrepreneurs by prohibiting sex-based discrimination in lending.
A lot has changed for women entrepreneurs in the last 30 years. In fact, a lot has changed just in the past decade. The overwhelming majority of women entrepreneurs surveyed in the 2018 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight believe access to capital for women business owners has improved in the past 10 years.
But, there’s still a long way to go. Although 84 percent of women say their access to capital has improved in the past decade, 68 percent say it was more difficult for them to get financing compared to male business owners they know.
However, women entrepreneurs aren’t letting this challenge hold them back. Here’s what the survey found:
Women entrepreneurs are confident
Women business owners are increasingly confident, both about their own businesses and about the economy in general. Economic optimism hit a two-year high in this third year of the survey: 48 percent of the women believe the national economy will improve in the next 12 months and 49 percent think their local economies will improve as well.
The women entrepreneurs surveyed are even more confident about their own businesses’ economic outlook. Some 58 percent expect revenues to increase in the coming year, and 21 percent plan to hire in that time period. In addition, 56 percent plan to expand and grow their businesses over the next five years.
Women entrepreneurs are taking the lead in technology
Contrary to stereotypes, the women business owners in the survey are embracing digital transformation as a means of growing their companies. Women entrepreneurs are more likely than men to use mobile devices for complex business tasks, such as financial transactions, hiring and social media updates. They’re also more likely than men to accept mobile payments from customers, issue refunds to customers on mobile devices, or pay employees via mobile transactions.
This willingness to implement new technology isn’t surprising considering that over three-fourths of women entrepreneurs believe the success of their business depends on continuing innovation. Overall, 42 percent of women surveyed say their businesses are currently either using or exploring at least one advanced technology, including the Internet of Things, data analytics, 3D printing or virtual reality.
What’s keeping women entrepreneurs up at night?
Despite their positive outlook and enthusiastic approach to technology, there are quite a few areas women business owners are more concerned about than last year.
- 78 percent are concerned about healthcare costs, up from 62 percent last year.
- 55 percent are concerned about the strength of the U.S. dollar, vs. 44 percent in 2017.
- 52 percent are concerned about interest rates, compared to 39 percent last year.
- 37 percent are concerned about the availability of credit, up from 29 percent in 2017.
How to close the gender financing gap
The survey asked women entrepreneurs who believe there is a gender gap in access to capital what they believed would make the biggest difference in closing the gap. The majority (42 percent) believe gender-blind financing would have the greatest impact.
Just 4 percent think angel investors and venture capitalists would make a difference. (In fact, the National Women’s Business Council notes research has shown that even women investors and venture capitalists tend to be biased in favor of male business owners.)
What’s the solution to enhanced access to capital? Bank of America is doing its part: Since 2014, its loaned over $35 million to more than 1,700 women business owners through the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program.
I’ve been privileged to have a ringside seat during the rise of entrepreneurial women these past decades—and maybe played a little part in that transformation. I’ve seen so many significant changes and have no doubt women entrepreneurs will continue the progress we’ve all made.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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