Opinion: Women entrepreneurs continue to be driving economic force

Lynn Searles, Bank of America. (Graham Bosch/Chamber Business News)
Lynn Searles, Bank of America.

Today marks the fifth annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, described by Fortune Magazine as a global celebration of female business owners.

Women entrepreneurs are making great strides and leaving their mark in business communities across the United States.

Last year alone, there were an estimated 12.3 million woman-owned businesses in the U.S., accounting for 40 percent of all businesses and generating $1.8 trillion in revenue, according to the National Women’s Business Council 2018 report.

According to the most recent Census data, Arizona saw a 53.6 percent increase in woman-owned businesses, jumping from 138,080 in 2007 to 212,100 in 2018. Indeed, female entrepreneurs have truly become a driving force in the nation’s economy, starting new businesses at a higher rate than ever.

As a matter of fact, women who own small businesses are poised to end 2019 on a high note, with 84 percent anticipating year-over-year revenue growth, according to Bank of America’s 2019 Women Business Owner Spotlight.

To better understand this thriving community of business owners, Bank of America surveys women business owners across the country each year to gain insights into their goals, aspirations and concerns.

Notably, this year’s survey found that women entrepreneurs are more confident in their revenue, hiring and expansion plans compared to their male counterparts.

For example:

  • 73 percent plan to expand their business over the next 12 months (vs. 66 percent of male business owners, and up from 67 percent in 2018)
  • 62 percent expect their revenue to increase in the year ahead (vs. 55 percent of male business owners, and up from 58 percent in 2018)
  • 25 percent are planning to hire personnel (vs. 23 percent of male business owners, and up from 21 percent in 2018)
  • 52 percent of women entrepreneurs are confident their local economy will improve (up from 49 percent in 2018)

This mix of optimism and momentum reflects the challenge of establishing and financing a small business – including the extent to which gender bias may play a role. For example, more than half of women entrepreneurs say they don’t feel that they have the same access to capital as their male counterparts.

When reflecting upon positive influences on their success, more than half of women business owners identified external factors, such as experiencing adversity, obtaining a college degree and having a mentor, that have helped them achieve success.

When asked for the single character trait that has had the greatest impact on their business success, women entrepreneurs identified integrity as the top personality attribute (23 percent), closely followed by perseverance (22 percent).

Looking to the future, business owners agree that having more women in positions of influence is the most impactful method to pave the way for the next generation of women in business.

And we couldn’t agree more.

At Bank of America, we are the nation’s leading small business lender, and approximately 40 percent of the 12 million small-business owners we serve are women. Bank of America recognizes just how vital women are in driving economic growth.

Education, training and networking play key roles in entrepreneurial success, which is why we have formed partnerships to connect women entrepreneurs to these resources.

Through the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, we have committed more than $50 million to help female entrepreneurs grow their businesses. For the sixth consecutive year, we also partnered with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), serving as the presenting sponsor of the annual Women’s Business Conference.

We are proud to do our part by providing the capital, opportunities and tools women entrepreneurs tell us they need to help launch and grow their businesses, so that they have the power to advance their businesses and make significant contributions to our economy.

For more research findings on the 2019 Women Business Owner Spotlight, please click here.

Lynn Searles is a senior vice president and senior relationship manager of business banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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