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A Celebration of Women Business Owners: History, Participation and Progress

In our continuing efforts to ensure that the nearly 10 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. have access to the resources, knowledge and tools they need to start and grow their own businesses, we are excited to share with you a brief summary of our March 8 Public meeting – A Celebration of Women Business Owners: History, Participation and Progress.

Council Member Kimberly Blackwell kicked off the webinar by saying a few words in honor of Women’s History Month and calling the meeting to order by asking each Member of the Council to stand and be counted via roll call. During the first half of the meeting, Council Member Whitney Keyes and Council Member Rosana Privitera Biondo shared updates on research and engagement activities.  They turned the mic over to Victoria Budson, Founder and Executive Director of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP), Harvard University School of Government.  Victoria Budson gave a riveting presentation on the $1.6 million gender wealth gap. Following her keynote, we moved into a panel discussion with the Council’s Members that represent national women’s business organizations, including, Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC), Astia, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), and Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO).

Here’s our detailed recap:

NWBC Research, Communication and Engagement Updates

On the research front, Council Member Whitney Keyes highlighted findings from two reports recently released by the Council.  Social Entrepreneurship Amongst Women and Men in the United States explored how women are drawn to mission-based initiatives and firms and confirmed that women’s pursuit of social entrepreneurship can be an important engine for the economy. You can read our blog here or join the conversation online using #NWBCSocialEnt.

In March, the Council released The Commercialization Path: Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Outputs among Women in STEM. This report highlights the gender gap that exists in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial performance between men and women in STEM, and suggests that women business owners hold a greater number of patents in non-STEM, rather than STEM, fields—a trend that is reversed among men business owners.  Relatedly, we took the occasion to applaud the passage of two important bills that touch on STEM, into law. The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act authorizes the National Science Foundation to encourage its entrepreneurial programs to particularly recruit and support women as they move from research to commercialization.  The INSPIRE Women Act directs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to encourage young women in the STEM fields. Read more about what we had to say here.

As shared by Council Member Rosana Privitera Biondo, the Council’s Engagement efforts this quarter included participating in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Virtual Conference for Resource Partners, where we had the opportunity to further explain and share our tool that we informally call “Grow Her Biz.”  This online resource platform, Grow Her Business: A Resource for Start-up to Scale-Up, links to nearly 200 best in class resources for women entrepreneurs at all stages of business development, from origination and start-up, to scaling upwards and beyond - along the path to becoming high-growth businesses. During the month of February, Black History Month, our social media channels honored Black women business owners and entrepreneurs by highlighting a statistic of the day from our Black Women-Owned Businesses fact sheet.  We also shared our Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2016: United We Thrive: Sustaining Our Momentum in Public and Private Arenas. We hope you enjoy!

Women’s Participation in Public Policy

Victoria Budson, Founder and Executive Director of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP), Harvard University School of Government, kicked off the presentation part of the agenda and delivered words of wisdom.  Victoria mentioned two ways to ensure an equitable place for women in society: 1) statutory protections and 2) supporting women to have the ability to provide for themselves and their families if they need to. In keeping with the second, she discussed that we have to focus on not just the income gap, but also the wealth gap. It is the latter that is most relevant to business owners, because the way to build wealth is through business ownership and equity.

Supporting Women in Business: The Voices of the Council’s National Women’s Business Organizations

Although the National Women’s Business Council was established in 1998, in 1994, the Small Business Reauthorization Act changed the membership structure of the Council from exclusively women business owners to its current form which includes both women business owners and six representatives from women’s business organizations. The afternoon portion of the evening concluded with a panel of representatives from the Council’s National Women’s Business Organizations. You don’t want to miss the information the six organizations shared during their presentations. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Council Member Jen Earle kicked us off by sharing how National Association of Women Business Owners  has 58 chapters across the United States.
  • Sharon Vosmek shared how Astia is a curated, highly-engaged, global community of experts – men and women – committed to the success of world-class women-led, high-growth ventures.
  • Council Member Marsha Bailey spoke on how the Association of Women’s Business Centers provides a continuum of business development services for women at over 150 locations throughout the U.S.
  • As one of the third-party certifiers of businesses owned, operated and controlled by women, Council Member Pam Prince-Eason provided insight to the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
  • Jane L. Campbell, President of Women Impacting Public Policy, shared how WIPP provides opportunities for women in federal contracting via the ChallengeHER program.
  • Council Member Dr. Marsha Firestone, spoke on the international expansion of the Women Presidents’ Organization, including their roundtable event on international businesses at the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Two action items for you, before we let you go: 1) Stay tuned for our up-coming research release of Women’s Participation in Business Incubators and Accelerators at the end of March; and 2) Save the Dates for May 10, 2017, and August 9, 2017, for the next public meetings.

Special thanks again to our speakers who joined us for our March Public Meeting. Again, the full live stream of our March 8 Public Meeting is posted online here and the social media conversation can be followed with the #CelebrateHER hashtag.  And once again, Happy Women’s History Month!

Author: Cristina Flores, Marketing and Engagement at the National Women’s Business Council.

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