Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day 2014: Three Actions to Take

Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebrates the successes of women entrepreneurs worldwide. It’s a day of appreciation, and more importantly, a day for action.

Women's Entrepreneurship Day

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is positioned right where it belongs: in the middle of the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators on the planet: Global Entrepreneurship Week. Today we raise a glass to a 224-million-strong and growing constellation of women who are starting or running new business across the planet–and that figure only represents the 67 economies studied by the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report. These women lead ventures across a wide range of industries, create jobs for themselves and others, and ignite intentional impact that benefits stakeholders, communities and the world at large.

In the US, one out of ten women is starting or running a new business. Just under 29% of all US small businesses are majority women owned and another 17% are equally owned with a male partner, making women the owners of nearly 46% of all small businesses in the US. Given that 99% of businesses in the US are small businesses, it is easy to see how important women entrepreneurs are to our domestic economic landscape.

Along with appreciating the impact and achievement of women entrepreneurs, today is also about action. Here are three ways you can play a key role in the global women’s entrepreneurial leadership movement:

1. Advocate for Attention
The first action is for us all to advocate for a broader appreciation of what entrepreneurial vitality gets noticed by the media and popular culture. Tech-based businesses represent an extraordinary opportunity for innovation, employment growth and wealth generation. But ALL businesses matter, and there is a huge potential for businesses in sectors with significant participation of women–such as consumer products, health, education, and retail–to become very large and to create extraordinary economic and social value.

2. Think Bigger
The second action is for each and every one of us to support women, from the earliest stages, to think bigger about the potential of their ideas. That means asking someone you know encouraging questions like:

“What else can your company provide to that market?”
“What other markets are also potential customers?”
“What add-ons can you produce; what adjacent opportunities exist?”
“What additional services can you provide?”
“The world needs someone to build this bold business. Why not you?”

3. Push for Access to Capital
We can’t have a conversation about opportunities for women without acknowledging the disparity in access to capital. This continues to be a challenge for women. According to the latest Diana Project study, 85% of venture capital goes to companies with NO women on the executive team. Only about 3% goes to companies with women founders. It is no better at the small business loan level, where a recent study showed that women get $1 of small business loan capital for every $23 of business loan capital going to men.

The Diana Project

The Diana Project

The opportunity for action here is to continue to build on the low roar that is challenging traditional capital structures. Everyone should take whatever openings they can to amplify the message that capital structures are broken for women. Write a blog; pose a challenging question to members of the investment community; ask your banks what products they offer for women; or better yet, make your money talk by investing in a women-led company. The fact that Google and Facebook have admitted to “unconscious bias” helps drive a conversation that traditional capital systems are actually full of problems for non-dominant groups. As our collective momentum builds, Babson will continue to lead the way through research.

All that said, there are bright spots. Women have embraced crowd-funding as an opportunity to circumvent early stage capital needs. Venture Capital firms like the Women’s Venture Capital Fund and angel investing groups like Golden Seeds have led a new movement of women-focused investment. Entrepreneurs like Eileen Fisher, Sara Blakely and Tory Burch have created foundations to support women business owners. Tory Burch is taking on the challenge directly with ESC, a partnership with Bank of America that provides loans of $50,000-$250,000 to women entrepreneurs. This is just the beginning.

Women entrepreneurs are a force to be reckoned with. They are growing in numbers, they are creating wildly successful companies, and they are slowly but surely finding the capital they need to grow.