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Public Meetings

January 2024 Public Meeting

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) recently held a hybrid Public Meeting at 12:00 PM ET on January 23, 2024. The meeting was held at SBA Headquarters (409 3rd St SW, Washington, DC 20416) and live streamed on Zoom.

By participating in the Public Meeting, members of the public were able to learn about the Council’s ongoing research, engagement, and policy endeavors, understand how the Council moves in alignment with other women’s business organizations, and share their firsthand experiences when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Public Meeting Recap

Welcome RemarksExecutive Director/Designated Federal Officer (DFO) Tené Dolphin

  • Executive Director/DFO Tené Dolphin welcomed guests and called the meeting to order at 12:10 PM.
  • She shared that the goal of the meeting was for Council Members to provide an update on NWBC’s ongoing work and to hear from experts about key priorities and trends related to women’s entrepreneurship in 2024.
  • Before taking role, Executive Director/DFO Dolphin reiterated the mission of the Council and gave background on what the Council has been working on since the last public meeting.
  • The following Council Members were present based on the role call and a quorum was established:
    • Sima Ladjevardian
    • Samantha Abrams
    • Brandy R. Butler
    • Karen Clark Cole
    • Kathy Cochran
    • Selena Rodgers Dickerson
    • Roberta McCullough
    • Jenny Poon
    • Pamela Prince-Eason
    • Leslie Lynn Smith
    • Dr. Shakenna Williams
  • Executive Director/DFO Dolphin then introduced Assistant Administrator of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) Christina Hale to provide remarks.

Guest RemarksAssistant Administrator Christina Hale

  • Assistant Administrator of OWBO Christina Hale introduced herself and shared more about her office before discussing the importance of empowering women in business.
  • She noted that women and people of color are leading the small business boom, remarking upon the uncertain conditions presented by the pandemic and the value of the Council’s efforts to bolster supports for women entrepreneurs through policy based on lessons learned.
  • Assistant Administrator Hale also recognized Executive Director Dolphin’s ten years of federal service.

Chair AddressNWBC Chair Sima Ladjevardian

  • NWBC Chair Sima Ladjevardian reviewed the various sections of the 2023 Annual Report before introducing the Council’s subcommittee chairs.

Deeper Dive into PolicySubcommittee Chairs Roberta McCullough, Selena Rodgers Dickerson, and Kathy Cochran

  • Each of the Council’s three subcommittee chairs presented the recommendations found in the 2023 Annual Report from each of their subcommittees, which include Access to Capital and Opportunity, Women in STEM, and Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.
  • After presenting each of their subcommittees respective recommendations, the subcommittee chairs shared two policy levers that resonated particularly strongly with them.
  • For Access to Capital and Opportunity:
  • The subcommittee’s first focus area was “Dollars That Go the Distance — Equitable Access to Diverse Sources of Business Financing.”
  • The two recommendations under this focus area were:
    • 1) Expand capital pathways for more Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) women business owners and increase support for community-based incubators, accelerators, and resource partners, and
    • 2) Protect women entrepreneurs from predatory lenders and raise awareness about unfair financing terms.
  • The second focus area the subcommittee leaned into was “When One Door Opens — Increasing Federal Contracting Opportunities and Awards for Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs).”
  • The two recommendations under this focus area were:
    • 1) Adequately resource and empower SBA’s WOSB Certification Program and the Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBUs) offices across the federal government to meet and exceed WOSB program goals, and
    • 2) Identify and highlight winning agencies, successful OSDBUs, and best practices.
  • For Women in STEM:
  • The subcommittee’s first focus area was, “The Future is Female — Women Entrepreneurs and High Growth Industries.”
  • The two recommendations encompassed by this focus area were:
    • 1) Ensure equitable advancement through women’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) entrepreneurial education, investment, and outreach, and
    • 2) Foster equitable opportunity for women entrepreneurs to lead 21st century industries by leveraging ongoing community development investments.
  • The second focus area presented by the subcommittee was, “(Best) Practice(s) Makes Perfect — Apprenticeships, Grants, and the STEM Pipeline.”
  • The two recommendations covered by this focus area were:
    • 1) Bolster workforce (re)entry and development efforts to get and keep more women in the STEM entrepreneurial pipeline, and
    • 2) Improve the incubator and accelerator system to help women advance more successfully through the STEM entrepreneurial pipeline.
  • The final focus area elevated by the Women in STEM Subcommittee was “A Bright Idea – Promoting and Protecting Women’s STEM Innovation.”
  • The two recommendations included under this focus area were: 
    • 1) Maintain a viable pathway to commercialization for women innovators, and
    • 2) Connect women innovators with the resources and information needed to claim ownership of and develop upon their innovations.
  • For Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems:
  • The first focus area pondered was, “Bridging Service Gaps in Underserved Communities — Improving Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Options, Addressing a Lack of Reliable Care Economy Services, and Connecting to High-Speed, Affordable Broadband.”
  • Three recommendations presented under this focus area were:
    • 1) Champion state PFML efforts and a bipartisan national solution.
    • 2) Ensure accessible, reliable, and affordable child- and long-term-care services for women entrepreneurs in rural and underserved communities, and
    • 3) Bridge the women-owned small business digital divide by improving broadband access, speed, and affordability for more underserved women entrepreneurs.
  • The next focus area noted by the subcommittee was, “Positioning More WOSBs to Compete — Improving Women Entrepreneurs’ Financial Acumen, Access to Back Office Support, and Access to a Skilled Workforce.
  • Two recommendations covered under this focus area were:
    • 1) Connect women entrepreneurs to accessible wrap-around services, back-office resources, and affordable professional support, and
    • 2) Provide dedicated support for women-owned small businesses and ecosystem builders offering onsite assistance to diverse women entrepreneurs.
  • The final focus area the subcommittee uplifted was, “Strengthening Federal Coordination Efforts at the Ground Level — Connecting Tailored Federal Resources to Local Governance Entities and Trusted Community Partners.”
  • Its two accompanying recommendations were:
    • 1) Reestablish and authorize the Interagency Committee on Women’s Business Enterprise, and
    • 2) Enhance coordination of local, state, and federal entrepreneurial development and funding resources.

Research DocketPublic Affairs Manager Jordan Chapman and Dr. Izzy Schieber of dFusion

  • Public Affairs Manager Jordan Chapman presented the following highlights from the By the Numbers section of the 2023 NWBC Annual Report:
    • The top three and bottom three U.S. states when it comes to women’s economic clout are New York, North Carolina and Georgia at the top and Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas at the bottom.
    • The growth rate of women-owned employer and non-employer firms outpaced the growth rate of their male counterparts in recent years, with women’s share of employer firms reaching 10.2 percent and their share of non-employer firms reaching 42.2 percent in 2023.
    • If Black/African American women-owned businesses achieved the average revenue of men, they would add $1.5 trillion in revenue to the economy. Likewise, Latina women-owned businesses would add $1.3 trillion in revenue to the economy if their revenues matched men’s. 
    • Women-owned non employer firms tended to be younger than the average U.S. firm, while women-owned employer firms tended to be older than the average U.S. firm.
    • Non-citizen women are overrepresented as business owners: despite making up 8.2 percent of the population of U.S. women, they make up 11.8 percent of women business owners (the same is true for men).
    • There are a number of interesting trends related to employer/non-employer status, age, and gender, but one that stood out to us was that only 5.8 percent of women-owned employer firms are owned by a woman under the age of 35 and nearly half (48.9 percent) were over 55 years old.
    • Overall, women own at least 700,000 less firms in STEM than their male counterparts.
    • Black/African American, Native, and Hispanic/Latina women all are more likely to own businesses in STEM than their male counterpart.
    • The majority of STEM businesses are concentrated in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector. Male-owned firms in this sector outnumber their female counterparts by about 1.5x.
  • Dr. Izzy Schieber then provided an update on a research project commissioned by the Council focused on women’s participation in entrepreneurship in rural, tribal, and historically underserved communities.

2024 Outlook by Partner OrganizationsRepresentatives from the Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC), the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL), the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and Small Business Majority

  • Organizations represented on the Council along with major partner organizations shared their respective 2024 policy priorities. The brief presentations were followed by a Q&A with Council Members.

AWBC OutlookRoberta McCullough, Board Chair of AWBC

  • Roberta McCullough shared background on her work with AWBC as well as on her work with a Community Development Financial Institute (CDFI).
  • Through her presentation, she highlighted the importance of resource partners like women’s business centers (WBCs) and CDFIs in supporting underserved entrepreneurs.
  • She also told a story about a time she helped a friend receive business support. This friend knew that Roberta was involved in lending broadly, but needed reminding from Roberta that organizations like CDFIs exist and are there to support businesses like her friend’s when it comes to access to capital. The story also reiterated why representation in lending matters.
  • In 2024, she believes that big banks and corporations will need to provide greater investments to women by providing funding to CDFIs.

WBENC OutlookPamela Prince-Eason, CEO and President of WBENC

  • Pamela Prince-Eason began her remarks by noting that there are 14 million women-owned businesses, which make up 39.1 percent of all businesses, employ 12 million people and generate $2.6 trillion in revenue.
  • She also noted that gender parity in business ownership would add $7.9 trillion to the national GDP. If minority women business owners matched white women in revenue, $667 billion would be added to the economy. The value of equality to Pamela Prince-Eason cannot be understated.
  • Pamela Prince-Eason introduced the work of WBENC as a leading WOSB certifier as well as the work of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) as a policy advocate for women entrepreneurs.
  • WBENC works to increase women’s representation in corporate America and break down barriers for women, including in access to capital, particularly when it comes to preventing negative outcomes associated with dilutive capital.
  • Access to procurement opportunities and workforce development/support are also key priorities.
  • Demystifying the global economy is another focus of WBENC, as they believe women should be competitive in the global economy, tariffs should be mitigated, and resources related to supply chain support should be accessible to all.
  • She mentioned WBENC’s Financial Center of Excellence and their LIFT model as two examples of programs aligned with these priorities and that ensure corporations are involved in business development opportunities for women.
  • Her call to action for participants was for them to be aware of attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and understand the importance of gender parity transcends race and geography. The intent behind attacks on programs can be transformed to create stronger programs.

CWEL OutlookDr. Shakenna Williams, Executive Director of CWEL and Founder of BWEL

  • Dr. Williams introduced herself and provided details on Babson College, as well as CWEL.
  • CWEL will celebrate its 25th Anniversary this year, and Dr. Williams remarked upon the significance of CWEL’s establishment and her personal connection to the program.
  • The Center is well aligned with the Council’s work through the Diana International Research Institute, which leverages data to help create a clearer picture of the state of women’s entrepreneurship and the experiences of women on a global level.
  • The Center also focuses on access to capital and opportunity through their two signature accelerator programs, Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab and Black Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, both of which help women build networks, develop their skills and strengthen their support.
  • CWEL works to make an impact by providing listening to the entrepreneur and connecting them to resources. The foundation of their program is the Babson’s Entrepreneurial Thought and Action.
  • Her call to action was to support entrepreneurs and support research, which has been limited when it comes to women’s entrepreneurship. She also called for leaders to serve as speakers, mentors, and sponsors to create a shared voice and sisterhood.

NAWBO OutlookJen Earle, CEO of NAWBO

  • Jen Earle introduced herself and the work of NAWBO.
  • NAWBO was founded in 1975 when women were unable to join comparable organizations, and worked to make the case that women make a major impact on the economy.
  • The organization played a key role in the passage of H.R. 5050, the Women’s Business Ownership Act, which created NWBC.
  • One of NAWBO’s policy priorities is addressing the needs of microbusiness owners and encouraging emerging business owners. Most women-owned businesses are rather small, and the smallest of the small are often not considered when legislation is passed, and policies are created, so NAWBO wants to ensure resources reach these owners.
  • Another priority is accessing capital through increased financial literacy, education and digital tools. Business owners leverage their personal assets and have often lacked the resources and education needed to successfully scale.
  • The third priority is understanding workforce needs while the fourth relates to workplace flexibilities and the individual needs of business owners. This includes access to care and the ability to rely on independent contractors.
  • NAWBO’s work is guided by three pillars, including advocacy, leadership, and education.
  • They are currently working on a listening tour focused on microbusinesses with WIPP and invites other organizations to plug into the conversation.
  • NAWBO Institute is creating journeys from start to scale to succession that may also be of interest, and they are continuously educating leaders through their chapters across the country.
  • When women do well, economies do well, so making sure all women have equal access to resources and capital is important to NAWBO.
  • NAWBO is committed to making women feel including and empowered. A concern they are seeing is the level of exhaustion amongst business owners and they are also interested in creating an environment for the next generation to thrive.
  • NAWBO’s calls to action included subscribing to their newsletter, participating in their listening tour, and connecting with local women’s organizations to build communities.

Small Business Majority OutlookAlexis D’Amato, Government Affairs Director of Small Business Majority

  • Alexis D’Amato introduced herself and shared background on the role of Small Business Majority as an advocate for business owners.
  • Women have been powering the economy, but challenges remain, as they have heard from their members. 2/3rds of their membership are women and 2/3rds are minorities.
  • Access to capital and contracts are two priorities, but other challenges that have been exacerbated post-pandemic are access to care and leave.
  • Three key themes have emerged from the 2024 policy agenda. The first of these is increasing equitable access to capital and opportunity, by supporting programs in SBA, Commerce, and Treasury, and advocating for more resources, safer lending options, and lending transparency laws.
  • The second theme is expanding a main street friendly workforce to help businesses create quality jobs, including by empowering business owners to offer benefits, advancing immigration reform, and workforce re-entry programs.
  • The third theme is fostering a level playing field for America’s small businesses, supporting policies to increase competition and those relating to tax benefits. 
  • These themes overlap with women’s entrepreneurship because Small Business Majority is interested in ensuring business owners have access to reproductive health and family care, promoting responsible lending, and protecting programs that support women like WBCs, SBDCs, SCORE, and more.
  • Small Business Majority is also interested in is the state small business credit initiative (SSBCI) and making sure the funding through the program is going to women and minority entrepreneurs.
  • Other examples of their advocacy are their support for providing businesses with equitable access to diverse sources of capital, advancing the borrower’s bill of rights, and working with Congress to support SBA programs through reauthorization.
  • Childcare and paid leave are two areas where they are seeking more input. They will be releasing a survey on childcare later this month, which connects to the fact that 1/3 of respondents to a previous survey reported that a lack of childcare is negatively impacting their business. The request for information from Congress on paid leave was also noted.
  • Lastly, their call to action was for business owners to take part in their small business councils and for advocacy groups to join their alliance for a resilient small business economy.

2024 Outlook Q&ACouncil Members

  • Council Members posed questions to leaders of partner organizations concerning their presentations.
  • Council Member Samantha Abrams asked Roberta McCullough how to encourage greater connections with and education around CDFIs and how we can expand our definitions of success by which businesses are judged?
  • Roberta McCullough responded that all should reach out to their CDFIs to learn about how they can provide support. This especially important given that CDFIs are required to get recertified this year. She emphasized that CDFIs are mission-driven and around 60% of their clientele are minorities or rural.

Public CommentsCouncil Member Karen Clark Cole

  • Council Member Karen Clark Cole facilitated the Council’s response to comments from attendees.  
  • The first comment came from Kalyn Romaine, who spoke about the value of education, mentorship, and “serving as the plug” to connect women to resources. She asked what the Council would tell women entrepreneurs interested in building their networks.
  • Council Member Pamela Prince-Eason responded that all Council Member organizations are interested in finding women interested in serving as conduits to others, and WBENC is particularly interesting in paying women to take part in this work to break down barriers nationally and regionally.
  • Council Member Shakenna Williams added that building BWEL starts with entrepreneurs like Ms. Romaine. She noted that there are a lot of resources available and that these are not in competition, but rather complementary, before uplifting a few programs offered by Babson College.
  • Council Member Jenny Poon mentioned that as an entrepreneur herself she got value from building peer groups meeting every week. It allows her to share challenges, connect on problem-solving, and cross industries.
  • Council Member Selena Rodgers Dickerson responded that a lot of this comes down to mindset and goal-setting through vision boarding to get a better understanding of how to bring opportunities together. The intention around these exercises can be about paying it forward as well so that your name enters room where you are not present.
  • The second comment came from Azaira from ParentWatch who spoke about her organization’s work and appreciation for the existence of the Council.

Closing RemarksExecutive Director/Designated Federal Officer (DFO) Tené Dolphin

  • Executive Director/DFO Tené Dolphin concluded the meeting by thanking attendees for their participation and inviting all to stay connected with the Council’s work online and through future engagement opportunities.


Council Members

Outlook Conversation Participants

  • Roberta McCullough, Board Chair of the Association of Women Business Centers (AWBC) and Senior Vice President of Operations for Institute Capital
  • Pamela Prince-Eason, President and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  • Dr. Shakenna Williams, Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) at Babson College
  • Jen Earle, CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
  • Alexis D’Amato, Government Affairs Director of Small Business Majority



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