The National Women’s Business Council Celebrates 29 Years of Helping Women Business Owners Succeed

The Council released a record 10 research papers and a toolkit in fiscal year 2017, and launched the NWBC Solutions Labs Series to identify policy solutions to the barriers faced by women business owners and entrepreneurs

Washington, DC – On October 25, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed H.R. 5050, the Women’s Business Ownership Act, establishing the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC). One of the greatest achievements of this landmark legislation was the revision of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to ensure that banks could no longer require women to have a male relative co-sign for a business loan. Since then, the NWBC has worked tirelessly to serve as a voice for women leaders and business owners in front of Congress, the White House, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Today, the Council celebrates 29 years of producing high-quality research, inspiring necessary policy change, and supporting the growth of women’s entrepreneurship.

In fiscal year 2017, the NWBC released the most aggressive research portfolio in its history. Between October 2016 and September 2017, the Council completed 10 research reports. Among other topics, the Council studied: supplier diversity programs, social entrepreneurship, commercialization amongst women in STEM fields, incubators and accelerators, crowdfunding, necessity entrepreneurship, millennial women entrepreneurs, and Black, and Hispanic women’s entrepreneurship. All reports can be found on the NWBC site.

Key findings from some of these reports include:

  • Necessity entrepreneurship: Many women start businesses not due to the lack of employment options, but because the options available are either not preferable or are not sufficient to achieve a desired outcome. These non-economic factors motivating women’s business ownership support the need for a broader definition of necessity-based entrepreneurship.
  • Millennial women entrepreneurs: Young adult entrepreneurship has declined in the past 20 years, millennial women are less likely than millennial men to be entrepreneurs, and rising student debt and higher debt burdens for women could be having an adverse effect on entrepreneurship rates for millennials.
  • Hispanic women entrepreneurs: Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the U.S., generate $97 billion in revenue, and create 550,400 jobs, and targeting the untapped potential of Hispanic women entrepreneurs through specialized support can accelerate U.S. economic growth.

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2-1/2 times the national average (52 percent vs. 20 percent), and employment in women-owned firms grew at a rate 4-1/2 times that of all firms (18 percent vs. just 4 percent). This comparison data shows that women are starting more than 1,140 businesses per day, a rate of more than 47 per hour; the growth of women business enterprises is unprecedented.

“The growth of women business enterprises over the last ten years is unprecedented; yet, women still lag behind, in earnings and receipts, and in the amount of venture capital and other forms of equity investment that they receive. This is a unique time, in many ways a perfect storm, and it is imperative that we work harder and faster to unlock the tremendous potential of women business enterprises,” said Carla Harris, Chair, National Women’s Business Council.

In addition to its research agenda, this year NWBC Council Members hosted four Solutions Labs in their local entrepreneurial ecosystems of Nashville, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; Bismarck, North Dakota and Des Moines, Iowa.  These small group discussions convened local women business owners, thought leaders, corporate partners, policy makers and other stakeholders to explore solutions that addressed challenges in diverse locations, including urban and rural, coastal, mid-western and southern. The NWBC Solutions Labs surfaced a number of policy recommendations grounded in the experience of women entrepreneurs across a variety of ecosystems.

“According to the American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report of 2016, it is estimated that there are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people, and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues,” said Esther Morales, Executive Director, National Women’s Business Council, “In order for the United States, and its various regions, to reach full economic potential, policymakers at the local, state, and national levels need to effectively coordinate the variety of stakeholders that share the same goal.”

NWBC urges policymakers seeking to effectively coordinate stakeholders to achieve the full economic potential of the women entrepreneurs—and the United States—to:

  • Encourage the collaboration of entrepreneurial support organizations at the local level;
  • Develop and host a web-based repository of effective local resource providers, modeled after NWBC’s Grow Her Biz online platform;
  • Create incentives, such as grant programs, for collaboration between local entrepreneurial support organizations, so that efforts are amplified and strengthened, not duplicated;
  • Invest in infrastructure, especially broadband, in rural areas;
  • Include business owners as vital participants in the continuum of education;
  • Explore an education loan forgiveness program for entrepreneurs;
  • Explore developing a student loan forgiveness program for startup founders;

As NWBC enters its 30th year, the Council looks forward to continuing its aggressive research and policy agenda accelerating the future of women business ownership in the United States, and unlocking the tremendous potential of women business enterprises.