By Karen Kerrigan and Ann Sullivan
Job creation and economic growth are two topics we’re hearing plenty about in the lead-up to November’s election. But be aware: if a candidate is not mentioning the role of women entrepreneurs in generating jobs and jump-starting the economy, they’ve got some homework to do. In fact, women-owned small businesses are starting up at twice the rate of male-owned enterprises.
In order to maintain this growth and momentum, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) along with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) have developed a guide for those vying for public office — a list of 10 things candidates should know about women entrepreneurs.
- Women entrepreneurs are an economic powerhouse. Making up 1/3rd of all businesses, women-owned firms are growing at four times the rate of men-owned firms and contribute $1.6 trillion to the American economy. This growth not only survived the Great Recession, but has propelled recovery in communities nationwide.
- Women business owners are not getting the capital they need. Only 4% of all commercial loan dollars go to women. The cumulative regulatory burden on community banks – a traditional source of capital for women entrepreneurs – has increased costs and made it difficult for these institutions to rationalize smaller loans. The unmet needs of women entrepreneurs total billions of dollars each year.
- Healthcare costs continue to rise for employers. Congress and the Administration must bring competitively priced and accessible health options to women business owners. Reinstating Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) is a key step in providing simple and flexible healthcare options to women entrepreneurs.
- Despite significant barriers, women-owned firms compete for and win government contracts. Reaching the goal of awarding 5% of contracts to women-owned firms in 2015 effectively set the floor for the federal market. To ensure women have access and can bring innovative solutions to government problems, more needs to be done. Parity in federal procurement opportunities is essential for women-owned businesses.
- Women businesses are a good investment. The track record of growth for women business owners is proven, yet only three percent of all venture capital goes to companies run by women. The limited number of women fund managers is a factor in this statistic. A study from the Diana Project, found that “venture capital firms with women partners are three times more likely to invest in companies with women CEOs.” The next Administration can use the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program among other tools to ensure more women fund managers have the experience needed.
- Women business owners seek markets beyond US borders. With 95% of consumers living outside of the U.S. representing 2/3 of the world’s purchasing power, women’s growth must be fueled by access to international markets. Strengthening the existing support of the Federal government for small firms should complement non-profit and private export assistance to small businesses. Our government must continue its efforts strengthening intellectual property (IP) rights and protections at home and abroad to encourage more entrepreneurship and the global expansion of women-owned firms.
- The burden of regulation can be crushing. We need a regulatory system that is inclusive, transparent and flexible. Firms with fewer than 20 employees, which make up the bulk of women-owned businesses, pay an average of 30% more per employee in regulatory costs, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. For manufacturers, this burden is even greater. One estimate by the National Association of Manufacturers estimated annual regulatory costs to be $34, 671 for firms with fewer than 50 employees. Smarter regulations and a more transparent regulatory process will produce more efficient regulations. Both the SBE Council and WIPP are founding members of the Rethink Red Tape coalition, working to elevate the voices of small-business owners to legislators and government agencies and advocate for positive change.
- Women entrepreneurs embrace technology. Women business owners are important consumers of technology and incredible innovators driving technological advancement. Stifling innovation by moving away from light touch regulation that has helped the broadband Internet and technology sector flourish means less investment and less access to the technologies and platforms that help women business owners compete and succeed.
- Women business owners have unique policy goals and insights. The one-size-fits-all approach to policymaking paints with too broad of a brush. Supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem will require women business owners to have advocates within institutions such as the SEC, CFPB and other agencies. While, women business owners have a seat at the policy table, they are woefully underrepresented within the regulatory environment
- Women business owners, like all business owners, seek certainty, simplicity and fairness from the American tax system. The outdated and non-competitive nature of the tax code impacts – and effectively restricts – the plans of women business owners and potential growth of their firms. It is the responsibility of the next Administration to work with Congress to modernize the tax structure in a comprehensive manner.
Ann Sullivan is the president of Madison Services Group, Inc. (MSGI), a woman-owned company that provides government relations and business development services to corporate and non-profit clients. She currently represents the largest national association of women business owners and women in business, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).