10 Programs, Initiatives and Resources for Women Entrepreneurs

The coronavirus may have shaken our world to its core, but entrepreneurs are resilient and battle on. Despite the pandemic, there’s still a lot going on for women entrepreneurs. Sometimes dates and programs change, so check with the companies to make sure.

1—For Women Entrepreneurs, the Pivot From ‘Doing’ to ‘Leading’ is the Critical Step

What fuels success for women entrepreneurs? According to a survey of women small business owners conducted by Qurate Retail Group choosing the right partnerships and people is the single most important factor in an entrepreneur’s growth as a leader, especially among companies with more than 10 employees.

“As a business moves out of its start-up phase and into new realms of growth, it becomes even more critical to shift focus to assembling the right team and selecting the right partners and distribution platforms to grow the brand for the long term,” says Leslie Ferraro, president of QxH, Qurate Retail Group’s largest business unit, comprising its QVC and HSN brands in the U.S.

Qurate says this finding reflects a broader pivot that women entrepreneurs make as their businesses grow: from executing against goals (which is critical at launch) to building a team that can sustain long-term growth. When asked to select a quote that best captures their business experience, respondents from smaller companies focused on the idea of getting things done, while respondents from larger small businesses saw alignment with concepts of inclusivity and teamwork: 

  • 37% of respondents with 1-10 employees selected this quote from Amelia Earhart: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act.”
  • 38% of respondents with 51-100 employees selected a quote from Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” 

The way entrepreneurs define a “leader” evolves as well. Among respondents with 1-10 employees, 30% say they first became a leader when they made their first sale or signed their first customer. However, as a leader manages a larger workforce, the goalposts for what makes her feel like a boss change: 

  • 26% said they became a leader when they grew their team (11-50 employees)
  • 31% said they became a leader when they made their first deal (secured funding, established a partnership) (51-100 employees) 

Women entrepreneurs also evolve their leadership style as their business passes growth milestones: At launch, the most popular leadership style is visionary (based on inspiration and trust). Once they gain experience, entrepreneurs also begin to adopt a coaching leadership style (characterized by partnership and collaboration). For respondents with 51-100 employees, the most popular leadership style flipped from visionary when they launched their business (38%) to coaching today (42%). Visionary leaders have a powerful ability to drive progress, while a coaching leader can elevate performance by quickly recognizing their team members’ strengths, weaknesses, and motivations and helping each individual improve.

For most women entrepreneurs (62%), corporate responsibility is a core element of their brand—being a company that acts in the best interests of all stakeholders and the environment: Corporate responsibility is important to entrepreneurs because it builds confidence and trust with customers and strengthens the company culture. 

  • Nearly 80% of women entrepreneurs believe corporate responsibility is important to their customers.
  • 45% of women entrepreneurs seek to build purpose-driven cultures and 32% want to build empowering cultures.

2—Are Women Entrepreneurs Prepared for a Recession? 

The information from Capital One’s Small Business Growth Index was taken before the coronavirus pandemic impacted the global and national economy. The insights are still valuable.

While overall concerns about a recession are down, an economic downturn would have a major impact on small business–especially for women-owned businesses.

  • Only 32% of SBOs say they feel fully prepared for a potential recession, while 42% report they are slightly prepared and 24% say they are either not very prepared or not prepared at all.
  • Women business owners (49%) are more concerned about a recession impacting their business in the next 12 months than their male counterparts (40%). Additionally, women SBOs feel less prepared for a recession with 69% reporting they feel ready to handle a recession compared to 78% of men.
  • 51% of women-owned business owners are concerned about a potential recession, and 70% feel prepared for a potential recession from a cash flow perspective.
  • 16% of women-owned businesses and 7% of veteran-owned businesses report it is challenging to gain capital.

3—Connecting Women to Necessary Resources

A desire to problem-solve lies at the heart of young women entrepreneurs and this desire starts at a young age. According to a study* commissioned by Mastercard 52% of Gen Z and 44% of millennial women say being able to help others as an important factor in determining their future or current career path. Mastercard knows that women have the ideas and passion that can Start Something Priceless, but sometimes the path to actualizing those ideas isn’t easy, especially when starting your own business.

To reaffirm its commitment to women entrepreneurs, Mastercard is launching Path to Priceless to “shine a light on their journey and provide a curated calendar of physical and digital advisement and mentorship opportunities, extending its partnership with Create & Cultivate, and introducing the Her Ideas community in partnership with Hello Alice, where members can access learning modules, tools and more.”

“Women small business owners are already making their mark despite the challenges before them, and it’s our intention to clear that path so that their ideas can reach their full potential,” says Cheryl Guerin, executive vice president of North America Marketing & Communications for Mastercard. “While we’re starting with a goal of 1 million owners, we’re creating opportunities for all. Our hope is that any woman owner who can benefit from the advisement, mentorship and community we are bringing to life will join us.”

The Path to Priceless: Amplifying the Impact of Women Business Owners

Access to mentorship programs and connecting with like-minded owners were the top-cited means of advancing female entrepreneurs, according to Mastercard research. To help women business owners continue their positive impact on the community, additional resources are now available through:

  • Advisement and Mentorship IRL with Create & Cultivate: Working with some of the most forward-thinking women and motivational entrepreneurs, Mastercard and Create & Cultivate are sparking a 365-day conversation to empower female small business owners through conferences, panel discussions, networking opportunities and one-on-one mentorship. Create & Cultivate event details can be found here.
  • Her Ideas Community Launch: In partnership with Hello Alice, a digital platform helping underserved communities build and grow their business, Mastercard is launching a community dedicated to delivering networking opportunities, as well as access to tools and learning catered to the specific needs of women business owners. Join the Her Ideas Community here.

*About the Generational STEM Study

Mastercard commissioned a U.S.-based study to better understand how perceptions and attitudes of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) differ across generations and gender. In addition to STEM-based topics, the survey investigated challenges and motivations for pursuing STEM college majors and career paths. An online survey of 3,803 respondents based in the United States, with an oversample of boys and girls from age 7 to 17 (n=100 for boys and n=100 for girls in each age group 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-17) and n=3,000 census-representative of age, gender, ethnicity, race and income for males and females 18+, was conducted from September 6th to September 16th, 2019. The total sample was nationally representative of region and ethnicity with a 2% margin of error. The study will be launched in full later this month.

4—Girl Scouts Ask Business Partners to Commit to Gender Parity

The Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) last spring announced Fair Play, Equal Pay™,  a gender parity initiative asks businesses to take action now to help build a more equitable future for girls. Industry leaders and major corporate partners of GSUSA, including Accenture, Ernst & Young, and SAP, have already committed to the initiative to increase female leadership and equal pay in their organizations by 2030. One of the most comprehensive and solutions-oriented corporate gender parity programs to date, GSUSA’s Fair Play, Equal Pay initiative leverages the power and impact of the Girl Scout brand to encourage companies that work with Girl Scouts to take the pledge toward parity and equal pay for equal work.

Girl Scouts is working with Canadian organization Women in Governance (WiG), an expert in gender parity whose assessment and analytical tools will be instrumental in informing GSUSA’s gender parity certification decisions. GSUSA’s certification will use a scaled 4-star system with each level of certification coming with a unique Girl Scouts’ Gender Parity Certification Seal. WiG’s best-in-class enablement tools, including customized support to address gap areas, will be critical in enabling companies to achieve higher targets and make meaningful progress towards gender parity. The initiative is sponsored in large part thanks to a generous grant from The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, a national foundation which supports initiatives in four main areas, by invitation only, including gender parity.

For Girl Scouts, creating a more equitable working world in which girls and young women can see themselves fairly reflected in organizational leadership and receive equal pay for equal work, dovetails seamlessly with GSUSA’s mission to develop girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

“Girl Scouts has helped build the leadership skills and potential of girls for over a century, but the world they inherited wasn’t always prepared to meet them where they were: ready to lead and expecting to be valued and paid on par with men,” says GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. “Through our gender parity initiative, we’re not only working to develop girls with the capacity to lead but also create a world ready for their talents. We want our vendor partners to know that working with Girl Scouts means a commitment to girls’ leadership—both now and in the future—which means committing to gender parity between men and women.”

Based on GSUSA’’ research, Girl Scouts is the only organization in the United States to create a program that challenges entities to complete four vital components: 1) sign a parity pledge in which they publicly commit to increase gender parity within their organization, 2) complete an assessment of their gender parity status, 3) advance their gender parity status using expert-informed resources available through the initiative, and 4) achieve a Girl Scout gender parity certification and proudly promote their success.

“We’re making progress around all aspects of women’s and girls’ lives, but we can set the bar even higher,” says Jennifer Morgan, Co-CEO of SAP. “We can always be doing more—and this is a critical and necessary step towards raising that bar and putting more young girls and women in positions of leadership. We are expanding our commitment to engage more girls and women in the conversation by sponsoring the Gender Parity Forum this October at G.I.R.L. 2020, GSUSA’s national convention. SAP’s support of GSUSA’s gender parity initiative aligns perfectly with our commitment to empowering women through technology, disrupting what it means to be ‘ready to lead,’ and making sure we have everyone at the table for the tough conversations.”

Transforming the workplace is foundational to making progress toward gender parity. Only 4.8% of CEOs on the 2018 Fortune 500 list are women. And studies by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company show that women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, even while companies’ commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high, proving that turning commitment into practice has been a challenge.

5—Gender Equality Remains an Unfinished Business

What’s the reality in American workplaces? Piplsay polled American workers to find out: 

  • 74% of men think employees get equal opportunities as compared to 64% of women
  • 37% of women and 31% of men think there aren’t enough women leaders in their organization
  • Only 46% of Americans believe their organization has a strong sexual harassment policy
  • 56% of Americans believe their organization encourages hiring women who take career breaks

There’s more information here.

6—Women Still Missing from the C-Suite

Analysis from global consultancy partnership Kearney has found that a total of only 16 (15%) women hold C-Suite or Chairperson positions in the S&P 100 index. Though the number of these top-level roles is lower than other regions, the report shows 29% of the S&P 100’s total 1,243 board members are now women.

Kearney’s report The leadership gap: a study of four nations set out to establish current progress of diversity in board leadership across four key regions globally: the U.S., UK, Australia and India. The report looks at both the private and public sectors; in the latter, 24% of the members of Congress in the United States are women, again lower than the global equivalents assessed. 

The report also looks at which sectors are the most progressive when it comes to female leadership. Technology firms took the lead in the S&P 100 with 25% of C-Suite or equivalent board positions held by women, followed by Consumer (19%), Energy and Utilities (19%), Finance (19%) and Industrials (19%) companies. On the other end of the scale, the Healthcare and Non-Energy Materials sectors have no women in board roles at all. 

Out of the four markets analysed Australia is the most gender diverse for both the public and private sectors, with 37% female representation in the public sector, and 33% in the private sector. Meanwhile, the U.S. polled second-last overall, with 24% representation in the public sector and 29% in the private sector. Again, Australia was comparatively advanced compared with the U.S. when the number of women in top board positions was measured as a percentage of total female board members, scoring 9% against the US’s 5%. 

Beth Sehgal, Kearney’s Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion, says, “Despite having, arguably, the most developed economy in the world, the U.S. has performed lower than perhaps expected for diversity across the categories we’ve looked at. In other markets, businesses have been more progressive in cultivating diversity, and for good reason; the best talent expects inclusive representation at the highest level. These outcomes suggest perhaps too much focus has been given to fostering diversity at the lower end of the career ladder, rather than the top. But a board with varied perspectives means risks and opportunities are anticipated in a way that a non-diverse boards aren’t able to. Inclusive executive boards are simply essential for truly understanding the complex, dynamic needs of modern businesses.”

7—Women at Work Survey

A CNBC and SurveyMonkey joint survey, CNBC/SurveyMonkey Women at Work shows the  majority of American women—especially younger women, women of color and working mothers—have high ambitions and career aspirations. It also reveals how much work employers have to do when it comes to providing opportunities for women to achieve their career goals.

Key findings

Working women in America are very ambitious

  • 54% of U.S. women say they are “very ambitious” when it comes to their careers
    • 75% of black women and 65% of Hispanic women say they are “very ambitious,” versus 46% of white women
    • 64% of women with children under age 18 say they are “very ambitious,” versus 51% of women with no children under age 18
  • 15% of 18-29-year-old women and 15% of 30-44-year-old women expect to be in the C-Suite in ten years

Mothers of young children in America, while highly ambitious, are also concerned about the impacts of paid leave and work from home on their ability to achieve career goals

  • 34% of women with children under the age of 18 are “very concerned” that taking advantage of paid leave, flex-time, or work from home arrangements might prevent them from achieving their career goals
  • 27% of women without children under the age of 18 are “not concerned at all” about this
  • 42% of black women and 30% of Hispanic women are “very concerned” that taking advantage of flexible work arrangements will harm their ability to achieve career goals, versus 15% of white women

Equal representation appears to be getting (a little) better for women at the senior leadership level, but employers have work to do

  • 24% say their organization offers more opportunities for women than it did three years ago, while 12% say there are fewer opportunities
  • 35% say their organization’s workforce is more diverse than it was three years ago. Black and Hispanic women are more likely than white women to say their organizations have gotten more diverse
  • 55% of women say men and women are equally represented in their company’s senior leadership. 13% say women are over-represented and 28% say men are over-represented

8—Best Cities for Women Startups 

Austin is the best city for women starting out in business in the 2020s, according to a study of key business trends over the last decade, conducted by TollFreeForwarding.com. The study look at data on six criteria that contribute to empowering successful women in business: women in executive positions, gender pay gap, female owned business, future job growth, population growth, and economic growth.  

The top 10 trending US cities for women in business were revealed as: 

  •  1. Austin
  • 2. Raleigh, NC
  • 3. Portland, OR 
  • 4. San Diego
  • 5. Seattle
  • 6. Fort Worth 
  • 7. Boston 
  • 8. Charlotte, NC 
  • 9. Colorado Springs 
  • 10. Arlington, VA 

The research also sought to predict which cities would be the first to break significant cultural barriers for women in business. If the trends remain consistent over the next decade, San Antonio, Texas will beat Baltimore to become the first city to close the gender pay gap. The research shows women earn 89.1% as a percentage of male earnings—an increase of 8.9% over the decade.  

Other findings

  • With a 7.53% increase, Louisville, Kentucky increased the percentage of women in executive positions more than any other U.S. city over the last decade 
  • San Diego had the biggest increase in female owned businesses
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona and Milwaukee, Wisconsin are set to be the worst cities for women in business in the coming decade  

There’s more data in this blog. 

Quick Clicks

9—Gender pay gap: A look at the gender pay gap across America over the last decade from business.org .

10—Women in tech: This report on women in technology from TrustRadius addresses critical issues for women in the technology industry in 2020.

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