Women, especially women of color, have been a driving force behind our nation’s postpandemic economic recovery, leading in new business ownership, returning to the workforce in record numbers, and opening doors for other women to follow in their footsteps.


Sima Ladjevardian headshot

In September 2023, I was appointed by President Biden to serve as chair of this dynamic assemblage of women business owners and leaders of women’s business enterprise organizations. Since then, I have received an incredibly warm welcome and am grateful to the Council Members and staff for their passion and dedication. As a tireless advocate and example for achieving the American dream of business ownership, I strongly connect with the Council’s vital mission and am eager to push for change in support of all women entrepreneurs alongside members of this Council.

Speaking of change, an incredible amount of change has occurred over the past few years. And how have women entrepreneurs responded? They have not only risen to the occasion but have brought their families, communities, and our national economy to new heights as our nation works to build back better. Women, especially women of color have been a driving force behind

nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery, leading in new business ownership, returning to the workforce in record numbers, and opening doors for other women to follow in their footsteps.

However, we must remember that women have weathered these storms despite significant weights and barriers. A lack of access to capital, care, broadband, mentorship, opportunity, rest, and networks are just a few factors that have hampered the business boom and bounce back. Here at NWBC, we do not want to ruminate on these issues, but we do want to keep them in the spotlight. We must remember the mistakes of the past, lest we be doomed to repeat them. Our nation learned a lot of lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has a lot more to learn in its aftermath when it comes to securing equal economic opportunity for all.

We are not discouraged; instead, we are emboldened, inspired by the outstanding strides women have made through business ownership, proud of how women serve as role models and funders to other women, and honored to be witnesses to the network-building women do in support of each other. When given the chance, women build onramps and bridges for one another to find success.

I took the journey of entrepreneurship as an immigrant and woman of color, and it was not an easy one. Entrepreneurship should not be about chance, luck, or fortune. The only limit to an entrepreneur’s success should be how big they can dream. For the American dream of business ownership to be a reality for any woman who seeks to achieve it, women entrepreneurs must be empowered with the resources, access, opportunities, and connections needed to start and grow their businesses, especially those who have historically been excluded from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

I am excited to lead NWBC in fulfilling this aim and applaud SBA Administrator Guzman, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and members of Congress for their commitment to this same aspiration. We all are key players in changing the game and elevating the playing field for women entrepreneurs and business owners. I hope you use the information in this annual report, a playbook for propelling equity in entrepreneurship forward, and look forward to collaborating in the years to come and building our network of supporters and allies.

Signature of Sima Ladjevardian, Council Chair.

Sima Ladjevardian

Council Chair

H.R. 5050 changed the game. Together, we will ensure that the Council’s policy recommendations further transform women’s business enterprise in a dynamic way.

Tene Dolphin, Executive Director.


As we consider our future, we want a woman entrepreneur to tell her sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandkids, godchildren, and mentees the story of how she made the world brighter, bolder, and more equitable. In other words, tomorrow, we hope that a woman entrepreneur (alongside a host of others) can tell the next generation the story of “how she saved the world” through her business leadership. Today, we want to understand how to make that happen. We know how it starts: with passion, policy, and partnerships.

Now, it’s up to us to lean in! Our Council Members worked tirelessly to develop policy recommendations on behalf of America’s more than 12 million women business owners. As captured in this annual report, the Council attended events, conducted research, held conversations, connected with stakeholders, and crafted policy to advance women’s business enterprise. The Council listened, learned, and leaped into action as they advocated for women in business on the Hill, in the White House, and the halls of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

This year, in particular, there was a lot to talk about

  • In 2023, seven new members joined NWBC, as well as a new chair and a new legislative and policy advisor.
  • We commissioned two new research projects, expanded our interagency agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau to broaden insights, and kicked off two new contracts to improve our stakeholder engagement. Women and/or women-owned companies lead all these projects.
  • The Council is pleased that many of the recommendations presented in our 2022 Annual report
    are being implemented. For example, SBA is streamlining its federal contracting certification
    process, continuing to lower barriers to women’s participation in federal contracting, and
    expanding lending programs to ensure that lenders look like the people they are
    lending to. Additionally, Congress and the White House have taken concerted
    measures to expand access to childcare and support the care economy.
    The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized women’s participation in the
    rollout of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other major federal investments.

With those wins came some losses as well. Our dear colleague and partner in this work, Candace Waterman, CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy, passed away in May 2023. Her willingness to step up to the plate whenever we needed her and her dedication were unparalleled. The ecosystem that supports women’s business enterprise feels the impact of this giant loss, but in Candace’s honor, we are all committed to working even harder for what we believe in. After a federal judge struck down a key provision of the 8(a) program, women in business were dealt a heavy blow. The ruling means that a program designed to make contracting more accessible to disadvantaged business owners adds another hurdle to the path to contracting. The echoes of this ruling as well as the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action, have left us shaken and concerned about the implications for marginalized entrepreneurs.

Four illustrated women stand in profile in a row in black and white

Nevertheless, each setback only strengthens our resolve. Women are strong. Women business owners are resilient, and this Council is in a position to do the work and meet the challenges ahead. Every major obstacle and missed opportunity only remind us of why we are here: to uplift women’s voices in business so that their call can be heard. We have seen the President, Vice President, SBA Administrator, and members of Congress (on both sides of the aisle) show their commitment to women in business this year. From Washington D.C. to San Juan and Boston to Nashville, the Council connected to partners to learn and align. 

Although we are the only federal advisory committee responsible for promoting women’s business enterprise, we are not alone in this work. As we recognize the 35th anniversary of the House of Representative (H.R.) 5050: The Women’s Business Ownership Act, which created this Council, we reflect on how organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) helped solidify our purpose in 1988. As we consider the next H.R. 5050 and what that will look like, we know that organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC), Native Women Lead (NWL), Walker’s Legacy, Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL), Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, and more will be cherished allies and champions for our shared cause. A sisterhood this strong can’t be silenced. 

H.R. 5050 changed the game. Together, we will ensure that the Council’s policy recommendations further transform women’s business enterprise in a dynamic way. I hope you find essential information within the pages of our 2023 Annual Report to support our collective work and clear the path for her to save the world.

Tene Dolphin signature graphic

Executive Director

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