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In collaboration with the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership, the Council worked with Carnegie Mellon University to review and analyze the effectiveness of Women’s Business Centers. Our hope was to gain an understanding of the Women’s Business Center network, what they need and how we can best support them. Download the report here and read our findings and recommendations for how best to support WBC’s.

Research has shown that social networks are vital to the healthy development and growth of a women’s entrepreneurial endeavor. While there is a lot of discussion on women’s social networks and their ability to identify key members of their network (mentor, sponsor, etc.) – there is little research on the differences in effectiveness of men’s and women’s social networks.

From previous NWBC research we know two things: 1) there is a disparity in the amount and source of financial capital that men and women use and specifically differences in the use of outsider capital (that is, capital from sources other than entrepreneurs friends or family). And 2) social networks are important because they enable the movement of financial, human and intellectual capital, as well as facilitate information exchange, but the usage and efficacy of those networks vary depending on gender and are impacted by the quality and quantity of those involved.

As such, we commissioned this research to shed light on the structural differences in the entrepreneurial networks of male and female entrepreneurs and to what extent these differences influence the development and success of female entrepreneurs. Specifically, it examines the role that social networks play in facilitating the success of women entrepreneurs who start a new business. Additionally, it examines the effects of gender differences on business outcomes and funding opportunities with respect to an individual’s social network.

This research is an analysis of the key trends and findings in women’s business ownership, comparing figures from the 2002, 2007, and 2012 Surveys of Business Owners. The project explores the growth and development of women-owned enterprises over the 2002 to 2012 period, paying particular attention to differences between the pre-recession period of 2002-2007 and the more recent 2007-2012 period.

The Council commissioned Womenable to complete this project, building upon an analysis of the preliminary 2012 figures released in fall 2015 and diving into the following: changes in growth in the number, employment, payroll, and revenue of women-owned business nationally, by state, by top 50 metropolitan areas, and by industry, over the entire 10-year period and across each five-year period; changes in the relative size of women-owned businesses by employment and revenue size categories — nationally and by state, metropolitan area and industry — to determine where growth is above and below average; and comparative size gaps between women-owned firms and all other privately-held firms — by industry and along the business size continuum (revenue and employment) — and how those gaps have or have not changed over the past ten years, and especially since the recession.

Key Findings include:

  • Women are entering the ranks of business ownership at record rates. Women are launching a net of more than 1,100 new businesses every single day. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2-1/2 times the national average (52% vs. 20%).
  •  Women-owned businesses comprise 36% of the country’s businesses. They employ over 8 million workers, 7% of the private-sector workforce. They generate over $1.4 trillion in revenues, contributing 4% of business revenues.
  • Perhaps the most remarkable trend in the past decade is the phenomenal growth in business ownership among women of color. In 2002, there were less than 1 million minority women-owned firms. As of 2012, there are nearly 3.8 million firms owned by women of color. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of non-minority women-owned businesses grew by just 9 percent, while the number of minority women-owned businesses overall grew by 315 percent.
  • There has been a huge increase in the number of female veteran-owned firms too. Between 2007 and 2012, when the number of all veteran-owned businesses increased by 3%, the number of female veteran-owned businesses increased by a phenomenal 295%. There are now more than 383,000 female veteran-owned businesses in the U.S.
  • Women-owned businesses are found in every industry. In fact, two percent or more are found in 13 of the 19 major industries – including more than 260,000 women-owned construction firms, more than 200,000 women-owned finance and insurance firms, and nearly 160,000 women-owned transportation and warehousing enterprises.
  • The top three sectors in which women own businesses in the U.S. are “other services,” which include nearly 1 million beauty and nail salons; “health care and social assistance,” among which there are more than 600,000 child day care service businesses, and 1.3 million “professional/scientific/technical services” firms.
  • Women are starting businesses everywhere. The sharpest rise in the number of firms is happening in the south. The top states for growth are: Georgia (+92 percent), Mississippi (+89 percent), Texas (+85 percent), Florida (+85 percent), and Louisiana (+74 percent), with four out of the five fastest-growing metropolitan areas for women-owned firms also in the South.
  • There are 19 states in which post-recession growth in the number of women-owned firms is at least 10 points higher than pre-recession growth – and most are in the North Central or Midwest regions of the U.S. The leading “bounce back” states are Louisiana, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Indiana, and Mississippi.

Knowing where women-owned firms are growing at a faster-than-average pace and recovering from the effects of the recession, and where they are lagging, provides critical information for policy and programmatic decision-making.

In March of 2019, the Council launched its signature Women in Small Business Roundtable Series across the country to convene women business owners and entrepreneurs and connect their voices to policymakers in Washington, DC. NWBC traveled to states in which Council Members live and grow their businesses and tapped into their local networks of female founders, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem stakeholders. The Council also engaged federal policymakers and local government officials, particularly those from the Small Business Administration and its resource partners, to join the discussion. Each roundtable was open to the public. In order to facilitate candid and insightful conversations, the names and companies of roundtable participants were not disclosed. While members of the press were also invited to attend, the personal information of the participants remained embargoed unless the individual participants offered express consent to release.

Each roundtable discussion focused on one of the Council’s three main policy priorities:

Access to Capital & Opportunity – NWBC recognizes that access to capital remains the largest barrier to market entry and success for female founders and women-owned firms. The Council strives to propose solutions pertaining to credit access, federal procurement, and venture capital funding for women entrepreneurs.

Women in STEM – NWBC is dedicated to encouraging women to start and grow their businesses in STEM, an industry with proven high-growth potential. Efforts to spur entrepreneurship in these underrepresented fields center on education and capital.

Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship – NWBC remains committed to gaining further insight on the unique challenges faced by rural women entrepreneurs and identifying untapped opportunities for growth.


Temren Wroge


WASHINGTON, D.C. – (February 4, 2021) – The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) today released its 2020 #LetsTalkBusiness Roundtable Series Report, a collection of testimonials from women entrepreneurs on current challenges and opportunities associated with access to capital, childcare, and patenting and trademark.

After the successes of the 2019 Women in Small Business Roundtable Series, the Council rebranded the initiative and continued hosting policy discussions through 2020. The #LetsTalkBusiness Roundtable Series launched in San Juan, Puerto Rico just before the onset of COVID-19. Participants highlighted women business owners’ role in catalyzing an economic recovery following recent natural disasters and shared effective methods to increase female founders’ access to growth capital. The Council then indefinitely postponed planned stops in New Hampshire, Texas, and Michigan and pivoted to virtual conference platforms for critical engagement with our nation’s women business owners.  

The next two roundtables included entrepreneurs and experts from around the country to explore prevailing issues. The Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship Subcommittee hosted a conversation on childcare affordability and availability, specifically impediments to industry profitability and the impact of childcare shortages on a beleaguered workforce navigating the pandemic. The Women in STEM Subcommittee led a discussion on women’s participation in patenting and trademark and remaining barriers to enter and launch new ventures in these industries.    

The feedback received during these roundtables served as the foundation for the Council’s Fiscal Year 2020 policy recommendations to the White House, Congress, and the Small Business Administration.

“During this unprecedented time, we must recommit to empowering our nation’s female founders and celebrating their irreplaceable role in the economy. We urge lawmakers to carefully consider the stories in this report and use key takeaways to develop sound, effective public policy pertaining to women’s business enterprise,” said Chair Liz Sara.