If I asked you to picture a business owner or CEO, who would you see: a man or a woman?
Fifty years ago, the answer to that question was probably pretty clear. But today, the conversation is a lot more nuanced—and fortunately features a lot more women.
According to The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express, the number of women-owned businesses in the United States has grown dramatically over the past few decades, from 402,000 (representing 4.6% of all businesses) in 1972 to 12.3 million (representing 40% of all businesses) in 2018.
The report also stated that between 2007 and 2018 alone, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 58%. The number of businesses owned by women of color increased at three times that rate during the same time period, by a staggering 163%.
It’s important to note here that the rapid rise of women-owned businesses isn’t always a matter of choice though—long-term unemployment, gender pay inequity, and the demands of the corporate world are all contributing factors in pushing more women towards entrepreneurship.
If not out of necessity, women often start their businesses to follow their passion, solve an existing problem, or build more freedom into their lives. But women entrepreneurs still face gender discrimination and challenges above and beyond those facing their male counterparts.
For example, Business Insider reported that “startups founded by women are given less investment but generate more revenue.” More specifically, a study by Boston Consulting Group found that the average investment in a women-owned company was less than half of the investment in companies owned by men, at $935,000 and $2.1 million respectively. In contrast, the same study found that women-owned companies generated 78 cents in returns for every dollar invested, whereas companies owned by men generated only 31 cents.
So it may be easier than ever for women to start a business, but there are still significant obstacles to true equality and growth. If we want women-owned businesses—from small side hustles to multi-million-dollar corporations—to really succeed, we need to create conditions that actually support them.
Financially, this means everything from closing the gender gap in venture capital to consciously buying from women-owned businesses in your community. But even if you’re not in a position to offer financial support, there are plenty of other ways you can help.
- Write a review or testimonial.
If you have firsthand experience with the business, one of the best ways to support them can be to write them a review or testimonial. Sharing about your experience honestly and authentically lets other potential customers imagine what their own experience might be like.
- Spread the word.
Many businesses (especially small businesses and startups) rely heavily on referrals and word-of-mouth. If you know someone who might be interested in a particular business’ goods or services, pass the name along. Personal recommendations can be incredibly powerful!
- Engage with their posts on social media.
If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably heard talk about the infamous algorithm. While there’s no exact formula to make a business’ posts go viral, the more you like, comment, and share their posts, the more likely their content is to be seen by others.
- Subscribe to their email newsletter.
Even if you’re not ready or able to buy from a business right now, subscribing to their email list is a great way to stay updated on what they have going on behind-the-scenes. And remember, not all newsletters are salesy—a lot of businesses put out valuable, free content exclusively for their email subscribers!
- Just check in.
Being an entrepreneur is tough. Sometimes the best way you can support your favorite woman-owned business is to just reach out and ask how they’re doing or ask if they need anything. Never underestimate the power of community and personal connection.
At the end of the day, when women empower each other, we all win. So let’s get started… which women-owned businesses are you going to support today?