Women: Making History Every Day
As you know, March is Women’s History Month. At the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), we certainly value and pay tribute to our heritage and all the efforts of women—past, present, and future—to ensure that women have an equal opportunity to compete and succeed in the business world.
Last October, NAWBO was proud to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 in the United States. The legislation, designated as H.R. 5050 – for the equality it set out to establish – was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. That landmark piece of legislation ushered in a transformation in women’s enterprise development by addressing key barriers that had been impeding entrepreneurism and business growth by women. As a result of this legislation, women entrepreneurs were provided with long overdue access to capital, education and technical assistance offered in a woman’s voice, access to federal policymaking circles, and the undercounting of the number and economic contributions of women-owned businesses were finally addressed. The bill also led to the establishment of women’s business centers across the country and instituted the National Women’s Business Council.
While it is absolutely important to remember our past so we have an appreciation of how far we have come, it is equally important for us to be forward looking. As we all know, women are making history every day of the year, and our efforts should be touted and recognized every day—not just in this designated month.
Perhaps most relevant to today’s “history” is the reality that women business owners and entrepreneurs are playing a leading role in helping to get our economy back on track. Statistics bear it out - Over the past six years, since the depth of the U.S. recession, the only businesses that have provided a net increase in employment are large, publicly traded corporations and privately held majority women-owned firms. In addition, 8.6 million businesses now owned by women across the country- employing over 7.8 million people and generating $1.3 trillion in sales as of 2013 - female entrepreneurship has skyrocketed, increasing nearly 60% since 1997.
The numbers are quite impressive and worthy of attention and examination by those who set policies that impact the private sector. Policymakers and opinion leaders should consider how they can further empower and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of women as they look to ignite economic growth in the months and years ahead.
The good news for women and our nation’s economy is that women business owners are optimistic. We recently released the results of our 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses report which reveals that 87 percent of respondents are optimistic about their business’ economic outlook this year, a 12 percent increase over 2013. Additionally, our report shows that 92 percent of WBOs predict that more women will start their own business this year – an eight percent jump over 2013. This demonstrates and drives home the point that while we have a great history behind us, we also have a great future ahead because women are leading the way.
At NAWBO, we will always cherish and respect the legacies and struggles of those who came before us. They will never be forgotten. With an eye to tomorrow and future generations, we will also continue to be a leading advocate for women business owners as we strive to foster a business environment that supports and rewards the risk-taking, entrepreneurial, leadership, innovative, and strategic qualities of women all across the United States who are making history every day.