According to the U.S. Census Bureau surveys, there were 166.6 million females in the United States as of July 2019. There were 161.7 million males.
In 2019, 33.9 percent of women 25 and older had earned bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared with 32.3 percent of men. But according to the 2019 Annual Business Survey, only about 19.9 percent (1.1 million) of all U.S. businesses were owned by women.
Institutional biases against women business owners were in solid existence until the 1988 passage of HR 5050, signed by then-President Ronald Regan. Among its many provisions, the new bill required the Census Bureau to report women-owned C-corporations when reporting data. It also eliminated state laws requiring women to have a male relative or husband co-sign a business loan.
Today, women are establishing businesses in a variety of industries, from beauty salons to construction companies.
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce named financial consultant Maria Salinas as its chief executive and president in 2018, making her the first Latino and first woman to lead the 130-year-old business organization.
The chamber lobbies the government on their 1400 members’ behalf and offers development services, including help with business leads and programs that seek to train tomorrow’s workforce.
“If we are to build an equitable economy which lifts our communities, we must alleviate the obstacles holding women, who make up half of the entire population, back,” Salinas said. “We must consider how our systems of healthcare, education, elder care, family planning, maternal health, and paid leave can be leveraged to ensure they work for everyone, especially women. The last year and a half may have brought awareness to the inherent inequities faced by women in our institutions, but simple recognition of those issues is only the first step in helping those who are affected by them.”
“One of the number one issues for small business is access to capital,” she said. Earlier this year at the Chamber awards, the organization celebrated member achievements in leveraging social media and pivoting tactics during the pandemic. “Their leadership, partnership, and vision remind us that together, the future is brighter.”
Seventeen women business owners are featured in the new book “The Higher Level Method: Success Stories on How to Master Your Business and Life Goals.” Michaela Johnson is one of the women profiled in the book, which is billed as a “motivational anthology.”
“I think women have this narrative that we have to take our power back,” Johnson said. “I believe the power’s been there all along, we just haven’t stepped into it. I think we’ve been running away from our potential for quite some time.”
Johnson was working for corporate America for years, until she felt she had pretty much exhausted her career as far as its growth and potential.
“I realized there was something more for me.” she said. “I knew that helping people was a big part of that.”
Johnson, who lives in the Bay Area, initially pursued a Masters Degree in psychotherapy because she noticed that when she was in therapy, her counselor would comfortably chat with her, taking off her shoes and donning a blanket.
“That’s a career I should have,” Johnson told herself. In addition to being a licenced psychotherapist, Johnson is a mom, journalist, author and podcast host and CEO of a nonprofit. She still considers “mom” her best title.
“It’s hands down the best thing that I do,” Johnson said of mothering her 10-year-old. “It allows me to do everything else with more patience, more understanding, more appreciation. This is something that’s critical to my own self-growth. He is a critical priority.”
“During this unprecedented time, we must recommit to empowering our nation’s female founders and celebrating their irreplaceable role in the economy,” —National Women’s Business Council Chair Liz Sara
According to a recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the number of female business owners who ranked their business’s overall health as “somewhat or very good” fell 13 points during the pandemic, from 60 percent in January to 47 percent in July 2020
“Everybody is bouncing back in some way,” Johnson said of the post-pandemic business owner. “And it’s about who can bounce back with more resilience. Grit. Maneuverability. You’ve gotta be able to maneuver and pivot. You’ve got to dig deep.”
Johnson thinks the biggest definition of success is failing a lot and it takes a certain level of risk to reach the jackpot level of success. But she doesn’t believe that happiness or business success is something one attains and then just has it forever. She believes happiness is a constant reset.
“There’s always something going to challenge the happy factor,” Johnson said, explaining that is the reason for her daily meditations—to set a goal, a daily focus to guide that day’s decisions. She also believes in repeating affirmations, mantras, daily journaling and practicing gratitude.
“It’s all about raising your level of consciousness and thought to a place where ‘I can’t’ doesn’t exist,” she said.
Women entrepreneurs face different challenges
A March 2020 report for the Office of Advocacy U.S. Small Business Administration, found that women continue to face different competing demands on their time than men, including a greater role in childrearing and home management. At present, limited research exists exploring the link between the types of businesses that women start and their personal and family situations.
In all industry growth categories, women business owners are five times as likely as men to be single heads of household.
Women business owners are generally concentrated in retail and service industries, where businesses are typically smaller in terms of both employment and revenue. Specifically, women tend to start fewer “rapid growth” or “high technology” businesses relative to men.
Susan Dawson, chair-elect of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and a co-founder of the Chicago-based law firm, Waltz Palmer Dawson notes that her members describe themselves as occupying three roles — business owner, parent and teacher — “with no break in sight,” Dawson said, speaking from experience.
“I figured out how to hardwire a router from my basement to my office just so that I can get online and do what I need to do for my business,” she said. “Now [my kids] need to be first in line, and I’m last for the Internet, because they have to go to school.”
Her husband, who works in manufacturing, is an essential worker, which means she is at home.
“I’m struggling with being a mom and running a business and being a teacher,” Dawson said.
In a recent NAWBO survey, 60 percent of female entrepreneurs said they have seen a decrease in revenue. While owners are faced with the difficult decision to slash salaries, 45 percent of respondents cut their staff’s salaries by up to 5 percent and cut their own salaries by more than 50 percent, according to the survey.
“The first thing they did was cut their own salaries significantly before they touched their staff’s,” Dawson said.
The California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls recently announced that the state budget includes additional one-time funding of $7.9 million, $5 million of which will be utilized to facilitate a statewide Women’s Recovery Response in the wake of COVID-19.
“I am delighted to see this historic financial commitment and I look forward to leading the effort to build a recovery plan that puts women and families at the center,” said Commission Chair Lauren Babb. “This funding will provide the foundational support needed to begin to reverse the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on the women and families of California, particularly those who were already struggling before the pandemic.”
As the state entity tasked with assessing gender equity in multiple issue areas including health, safety, employment, education, and others, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls is uniquely positioned to uplift local commissions and the direct service providers they work with to help ensure that women’s needs are centered in the statewide recovery efforts. The additional investment will begin to insert structural support and resources into the network of local commissions while the California Commission continues to act as a statewide convener, facilitator, and oversight administrator. There are only 30 total local commissions on women in California at either the county or city level.
“The Commission will build on this investment to support the intersectional needs of women and girls statewide and ensure that response efforts are local and women led,” said Interim Executive Director Holly Martinez. “I am honored to have the opportunity to help make this effort a reality for the Commission and for the women of California. The commitment to women’s recovery by Governor Gavin Newsom and the Women’s Caucus is a key element in building a better California for all.”
By working to strengthen the existing network of local commissions, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls seeks to build a more direct system of support for women in communities across the state.
“As we grapple with the long-term consequences of this pandemic, it is imperative that women across the state, in all industries and localities receive the support they need,” the commission stated. “The California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls is committed to leading the work to understand the impact of COVID-19 on women and families and ensuring that they are represented. This funding and the commitment from those who championed it is a key element of rebuilding in the wake of the pandemic.”