Why are women becoming a rising force in American entrepreneurship?

19 Aug

Yesterday my PR firm contacted me for a quote about why women are at the forefront of the entrepreneurial movement in America. It was an interesting and hard request, as the journalists only wanted 1 or 2 sentences from me. I feel that it is very difficult to comment on such a big topic in only 1 or 2 sentences. I think there are so many forces at play that have placed women front and center of the entrepreneurial movement. First, before I discuss all the reasons I think women are at the forefront, I thought I would share some stats with everyone:

From the Center for Women’s Business Research:

The Overall Picture: 2008-2009

  • 10.1 million firms are owned by women (75% or more), employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales as of 2008.
  • Three quarters of all women-owned businesses are majority owned by women (51% or more), for a total of 7.2 million firms, employing 7.3 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales.
  • Women-owned firms (50% or more) account for 40% of all privately held firms.

As of 2002 the number of women-owned businesses has grown at twice the rate of all firms. Now of course, it is easier to double your numbers when your numbers are small. But still it is extremely encouraging and inspiring to see that women are truly shedding all the barriers to becoming entrepreneurs and are in control of their own destiny. So why are women suited to be entrepreneurs? Here are a few reasons I think they are:

  1. Like it or not, women multitask better.  This is nature, not nurture. In order to survive throughout history women have always needed to multitask raising children with the other things that they are in charge of.  When starting a business, multitasking is an asset. You need to be able to do 5 things at once.
  2. Women who have chosen to become mothers are used to dealing with stressful 24-hour-a day jobs. Being a mother is wonderful, magical, beautiful, but also stressful and exhausting. Despite the fact that many fathers today have stepped in and really truly do their part in parenting, until the day that men can actually bear children and breastfeed, much of the burden of having and caring for babies falls onto the woman. Period. All of us who have struggled through business meetings, hoping we don’t vomit from morning sickness, or gotten through a day rocking every business commitment despite having woken up 4 times to breastfeed a new baby the night before, or taken a conference call on our mobile phone in order to get to be able to talk, and still pick your child up on time, know what I am talking about. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, and I think more prepared to deal with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
  3. Any woman successful in business today has had a moment where she was unfairly judged by someone else, just because she is a woman. It happens. It will probably continue to happen in my lifetime. It certainly doesn’t happen as often as it used to even 10 years ago, but it does and will.  Those of us who are successful don’t let the judgment bother us, and prove ourselves by being better, smarter, faster than our counterparts.  I think successful women are more likely to want to be in charge of their own success. They are not happy to wait around and let someone else decide their fate. This is the type of woman who is out there starting a business.
  4. Women are less likely to get the family business passed on to them. If they want to own and run a business, in almost all cases, they have to start it. Of course this is not always true. I run my family business, and it was passed to me by my father. But prior to running this business I had already started two other businesses.
  5. Women now decisively outnumber men on the nation’s college campuses, and they graduate at a higher rate than men do. And the numbers are expected to just get better for women and worse for men. Some studies cite that, if the gender gap continues, 2/3 of all college graduates in 2020 will be women. Here is another article pointing to the gender gap (more women applying to Yale than men): Yale Daily News. If women become more educated than men, and more women than men are graduating from college, you will continue to see the number of women entrepreneurs go up.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my reasons?



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10 Responses to “Why are women becoming a rising force in American entrepreneurship?”

  1. alisonavigail August 20, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    I agree with you that women are becoming a rising force in entrepreneurship, but I think it’s more than in just America–it’s all over the world.

    Today, when I was interviewing socially / environmental entrepreneurs in London to Brussels, San Franscisco, Madrid, and Toranto they were ALL WOMEN! In addition, the global network they are a part of, The Hub (http://the-hub.net) I found out that one of the founders, Maria Glauser, is also a woman.

    All those thousands of years of multitasking is paying off!

    AlisonAvigayil
    http://sproutyourorg.com
    http://sababiblog.com

  2. alisonavigail August 20, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    I agree with you that women are becoming a rising force in entrepreneurship, but I think it’s more than in just America–it’s all over the world.

    Today, when I was interviewing socially / environmental entrepreneurs in London to Brussels, San Francisco, Madrid, and Toranto they were ALL WOMEN! In addition, the global network they are a part of, The Hub (http://the-hub.net) I found out that one of the founders, Maria Glauser, is also a woman.

    All those thousands of years of multitasking is paying off!

    AlisonAvigayil
    http://sproutyourorg.com
    http://sababiblog.com

  3. Natalie MacNeil August 20, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    I’m glad you mentioned the point that women multitask better because I argue this with many male entrepreneurs. I sometimes get criticized for not focusing on one thing at a time but mono-tasking is a luxury that most entrepreneurs do not have!

    I am very curious to see how women outnumbering men in college will change the business landscape. Over the next 20 years this will have a huge impact on North America. It’s also interesting to look at the social factors behind more women being in college than men.

    Great post!

  4. Laurel Delaney, Chicago, IL August 20, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    Hi, Sabrina!

    Love to see this topic front and center — thank you so much for taking the time to write it!

    But I also think, in addition to what you highlight above, the reason that women are turning to entrepreneurship is because they want greater freedom, flexibility, recognition, more money, and opportunities to leave a legacy — all the things they once thought they would find within corporations.

    Much appreciation,
    Laurel Delaney
    http://www.escapefromCorporateAmerica.com

  5. Brenda Edin August 24, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    “Any woman successful in business today has had a moment where she was unfairly judged by someone else, just because she is a woman.”

    Totally agree. Buidling on that… One of the things I believe makes women thrive as business owners is the desire to empower others. Personally, I love nothing more than giving others the opportunity to shine and hone their skills in order to further advance themselves and their careers. A business full of empowered people = a powerful business.

  6. Jen September 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    I love this post; it’s so heartening to read! Commenter Brenda’s point about “giving others the opportunity to shine” is also insightful, as well as poignant.

    My thought is that a variety of modern realities (connectivity, access to higher education, non-PC-ness of the glass ceiling, effective family planning, etc.) is finally giving women a position from which they are leveraging not only their innate strengths (such as multi-tasking), but also the short end of the stick they’ve been stuck with for so long.

    Here are two comon ways they leverage the disadvantages:

    First, consider a dual-income household in which one earner must give up work in order to manage family affairs, such as childcare. It is almost always the woman who quits working. It doesn’t much matter who is the more successful, hard-working, or brighter of the pair. It doesn’t necessarily even matter who earns more. Many studies demonstrate this. A woman’s job is simply considered more “give-upable.”

    And when the need for that woman to be at home has ended, she very often finds herself somewhat locked out of the career path to which she had expected to return. This presents a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurship, supplying opportunity, not to mention a healthy dose of “I’ll show you!”

    Second example: Last year I attended a conference where potential entrepreneurs discussed the major factors that hold them back. Nearly every participant was male, and they almost all cited “fear of failure” as their primary block. Of the few women, none cited fear of failure. They cited fear of financial insecurity, but with less vehemence than the men, who also mentioned it.

    I think that since a woman’s job is undervalued to start with, and considered “give-upable,” that when she starts a new business, if after a time, the business fails, it is way, way easier to “spin” this than when a man’s business fails. In fact, if all she says is “then I went back to raising my kids for a few more years before starting my next venture,” this will be almost universally accepted at face value.

    Women have pushed hard to be taken seriously in the traditionally “male sphere” of society, but neither men nor women have shown a similar inclination to have men occupy the traditional “female sphere.” I think the result is that the average woman, though still facing certain serious disadvantages, is able to move between these areas much more fluidly than is the average man, and this can afford women a luxury of choice and self-determination that men of ordinary means do not yet have.

    Sorry for the long comment!

  7. Melissa March 12, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Great post! The business world is filled with strong, creative, and intelligent women, so the rise in women-owned businesses is no surprise. Femme Promo is a women business enterprise (WBE) and we serve the growing number of women in the business world (www.femmepromo.com). We are women, inspired by women and we understand that women are multi-faceted, which calls forth product ideas that are unconventional, non-traditional, different, unique, and innovative.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Blog Week in Review — 8/20/09 | Business in General - August 20, 2009

    […] Why are women becoming a rising force in American entrepreneurship? — Sabrina Parsons weighs in on some of the reasons women are ideally suited to run businesses. […]

  2. Women Entrepreneurs Blog Carnival | She Takes on the World - August 21, 2009

    […] Parsons presents Why Are Women Becoming a Rising Force in American Entrepreneurship posted at Mommy CEO. This article explores the reasons for the changing business landscape as more […]

  3. Why are women becoming a rising force in American entrepreneurship? « - August 24, 2009

    […] Why are women becoming a rising force in American entrepreneurship? Posted on August 24, 2009 by hmm The Overall Picture: 2008-2009 • 10.1 million firms are owned by women (75% or more), employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in salesas of 2008. • Three quarters of all women-owned businesses are majority owned by women (51% or more), for a total of 7.2 million firms, employing 7.3 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales. • Women-owned firms (50% or more) account for 40% of all privately held firms. As of 2002 the number of women-owned businesses has grown at twice the rate of all firms. Now of course, it is easier to double your numbers when your numbers are small. But still it is extremely encouraging and inspiring to see that women are truly shedding all the barriers to becoming entrepreneurs and are in control of their own destiny. So why are women suited to be entrepreneurs? Click the link to find the answers. https://mommyceo.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/why-are-women-becoming-a-rising-force-in-american-entrepren… […]

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