A Year of Historic Achievements for Women-owned Businesses

By Natalie Madeira Cofield on December 23, 2021

Category: SBA News and Views

In fiscal year 2021, SBA’s Office of Women Ownership helped nearly 90,000 businesses and saw the most extensive expansion to its Women’s Business Center network.

2021 was not an easy year for small business owners. Despite many patriotic Americans responding to President Biden’s call and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot, the pandemic continues to impact our economy and hit our small businesses the hardest. This is especially true for small businesses owned by those from historically underserved communities.

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated pre-existing inequities in our economy. There have been great strides forward in the last few years, but women continue to lag men when it comes to owning a business. According to the SBA’s Annual Business Survey data, despite women employer businesses numbering 1.1 million in 2019, women businesses only made up about 20 percent of all employer firms, and women business owners were underrepresented in all demographic groups compared to their male counterparts.

Despite these statistics, no one can deny the impact women-owned businesses have on our economy. Women-led businesses employed 10.1 million workers and accumulated $1.8 trillion in receipts in 2019. The number of employer firms owned by women grew six percent between 2014 and 2016, twice the growth rate of employer firms owned by men. This exponential growth was mainly driven by an increase in employer businesses owned by minority women, which grew 14 percent.

That is why the SBA is proud of our work supporting our innovative women entrepreneurs to help them achieve success amid unprecedented challenges through our Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO). Under the leadership of SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, OWBO helped over 88,000 businesses and supported more than 86,000 jobs. We also assisted over 3,000 startups and provided 1.4 million capital transactions that have led to financial capital infusion, scale, and growth.

In our work leading OWBO these past months, I have seen firsthand the difference SBA makes in the women-owned small business ecosystem. And as an entrepreneur myself, I know all too well the numerous challenges so many face when trying to grow their business. That is why our focus has been on helping these women in any way possible. One of the most significant ways we do this is through our Women’s Business Centersnetwork (WBC). Currently, OWBO funds and supports the largest WBC network in the history of the SBA, with over 140 centers in 49 states and Puerto Rico. Twenty-four new centers have opened since March 2021. These new centers were established in diverse communities across the nation, representing the multicultural nature and lived experiences of women entrepreneurs, including those from rural and urban communities, HBCUs, and Native American institutions.

OWBO also funded three WBCs affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), increasing the number of WBCs operating in partnership with HBCUs to six. As a Howard University alumni myself, I know how influential HBCUs can be in shaping the future of young, Black women nationwide.

WBCs are essential to OWBO’s work. They meet women business owners where they are and provide them with extensive on-the-ground resources that include free to low-cost counseling, training, business development technical assistance, and are dedicated to assisting women entrepreneurs to start, grow, and expand their enterprises.

OWBO also oversaw a historic allocation of recovery-related grants to women entrepreneurs. In 2021, it funded 14 Resiliency and Recovery Demonstration Projects for a total of $2.7 million to help women business owners weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And this is just the beginning. In December 2021, Administrator Guzman announced her intentions to elevate OWBO to directly report to the Office of the Administrator. This transition will provide this key stakeholder group visibility and the autonomy needed to innovate the WBC network, execute strategies to strengthen women entrepreneurs and reduce administrative inefficiencies that limit the program’s impact. I am very excited and honored to take on this historic role for the agency, leading on the implementation of our dynamic leader’s vision to truly elevate women entrepreneurs everywhere.

2022 will be another year filled with successes as we prepare to announce existing developments concerning the WBC network and the number of states it reaches and continue to invest in minority communities to ensure that this key demographic in our business community gets all the help it needs and deserves. OWBO will continue leading the way within the SBA and the Biden-Harris Administration in helping women business owners pivot and thrive.

As a crucial part of our economy, the SBA is determined to make sure women business owners receive all the assistance they deserve to not only survive these difficult times but thrive and continue to show the world that America’s women entrepreneurs are mighty.

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