Every year since 1987, the month of March has been designated Women’s History Month by Congress. The president issues an annual proclamation on Women’s History Month, highlighting the progress the government has made on behalf of women and girls, and federal agencies announce new programs, initiatives, and funding opportunities for women-owned businesses.
The past three years have been extremely difficult for everyone, but especially for women. Due to the pandemic, rising costs and supply chain disruptions, a record number of women left the workforce to care for children and loved ones, to achieve a better work-life balance, or because they felt undervalued in their role. While many women quit their jobs during the pandemic, data suggests that some of them did so to start their own businesses, with 80% of women who started a business did that from scratch, as opposed to buying another company or franchise. More than half also launched their venture solo, which is double the number of men who did the same. One bright spot is that many new businesses started by women were started by women Black womenwho were the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America even before the start of the pandemic.
Despite the difficult challenges that women continue to overcome, they go back to work and start a business. There are now more resources to support the growth of women-owned businesses than ever before. This week, the president announced continued and additional resources for women-owned businesses, including an expansion of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) network. This expansion brings the total number of WBCs nationwide to 160 to assist women entrepreneurs through mentorship, technical assistance, business development and financing opportunities. The SBA network of additional resource partners, including SCORE and the Small business development centers (SBDCs) provide a strong portfolio of resources that women entrepreneurs can access to grow their businesses, including the SCORE information center for female entrepreneurs.
These are much-needed resources for women-owned businesses, especially as more and more women turn to entrepreneurship following the concerns female entrepreneurs share regarding the economic challenges facing their businesses. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak with the leaders of several women’s and minority organizations, including the president and CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy, Candace Waterman. She said women approach the future with cautious optimism and want leaders in Congress to prioritize what they can agree on to find solutions to the challenges facing small businesses.
Policy-wise, there is cause for optimism as congressional leaders come together to explore paid leave solutions with the launch of the Bipartisan House Working Group on Paid Leave, led by Representatives Houlahan (D-PA) and Bice (R-OK) . Additional policies aim to address access to affordable health care options, a key barrier to entrepreneurial success, including resolving the “family breakdown,” new health reimbursement options, and reducing barriers to Marketplace participation for owned businesses of women. female entrepreneurs to have the tools to grow. The Inflation Reduction Act also took steps to contain prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time, a major concern among small business owners, and pressure is mounting to continue build on the momentum of that legislation to extend savings beyond Medicare to the private market.
As women start more and more businesses, it is critical that they have access to the resources and tools they need to be successful. The increased investment in resources that help them start their businesses and in policy issues that have an acute impact on women, such as paid time off and better access to affordable health care, will be key to their success.