Pandemic Setting Women-Owned Businesses Back
Women’s History Month isn’t perfect. Professor Kimberly A. Hamlin argued in a Washington Post op-ed that when men make history, it’s just called “history.” But when women make history, it’s “women’s history.”
There are just a few days left in Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to remembering and honoring the many women who’ve had an historic impact on the world. From Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks, the timeline of women’s history milestones stretches back to the founding of the United States.
In the business world, women such as Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods, and Lynn L. Elsenhans, chairman, CEO and president of Sunoco, have certainly made their marks.
However, women still have a long way to go. According to an American Express report, for every dollar generated by a privately held company in 2019, women-owned businesses generated just 30 cents. Additionally, the National Women’s Law Center reports 80% of the millions who have left the workforce due to the COVID-19 epidemic are women.
According to recent data by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, female-owned small businesses have also been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and corresponding economic crisis, and are now less likely to expect future revenue, investment and staffing growth.
Before the pandemic began, 67% of male-owned businesses ranked the overall health of their business as “somewhat or very good,” compared to 60% of female-owned businesses. In July 2020, that number had fallen 13 points to 47% for female-owned businesses, while the number of male business owners reporting “somewhat or very good” health had a small shift of only 5 points to 62%.
Meanwhile, the number of female-owned and male-owned businesses that had increased staff in the past year was nearly even back in January (18% and 17% respectively). Now there’s a 10 point gap, with only 15% of women-owned businesses in July reporting an increase in employees over the previous 12 months, versus 25% for male-owned businesses.
In January, 32% of female-owned small businesses said they planned to increase investments in their business in the coming year, similar to male-owned businesses at 28%. In July, that number remained unchanged for female owners, but male owners saw an increase of 11 percentage points, rising to 39%.
Additionally, in January, 63% of female-owned businesses predicted their revenues would increase in the coming year, comparable to male-owned businesses (59%). In July, that number had fallen 14 percentage points for female owners to 49%, while male owners remained statistically unchanged (57%).
Also, 31% of female-owned businesses said they expected to increase the size of their staff in the coming year, nearly the same as male-owned businesses (30%). In July, there was a 12-point difference between female owners (24%) and male owners (36%).
In an effort to mitigate the devastating damage caused by the epidemic to small businesses, Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been lobbying for much needed aid to struggling owners but she has specific concerns for women during these trying times.
“We cannot allow this pandemic to set back a generation of entrepreneurial women,” says Clark. “We need to help struggling small businesses safely reopen and stay open so they can continue to grow and create jobs in their local communities. The health and existence of small businesses is essential to the economic recovery of our nation.”