Cracking the Glass Ceiling

Report: Women business owners are holding their own, despite challenges.

Every day, women are starting new businesses in every corner of this country. Like any other business owner, they grapple with many decisions to ensure success. They ask themselves the same questions as their male counterparts: Do I have the right product? Am I balancing revenue sharing correctly? Did I learn enough in school?

Despite the difficult economic climate during the recent recession, women-owned businesses performed just as well as men-owned businesses during the period of 2007–2010 and, in many cases, outperformed their peers.

Last month, the National Women’s Business Council released newly analyzed data demonstrating that, although women-owned businesses are doing well, they tend to struggle with key obstacles. Some of those struggles are within the basics of business development: business performance, revenue distribution and industry participation.

The data shows that, while it is clear that women are the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, challenges persist in growing revenues and gaining market share to compete equally with their male counterparts. In fact, this data shows that women-owned businesses tend to be overly present in low-income industries and disproportionately absent in high-income industries.

It’s also interesting to note that education does not necessarily improve success in business for women. Overall, slightly fewer women business owners had a bachelor’s degree than men business owners. Having an advanced degree is noticeably not a requirement for success in business as, in many industries, fewer than 6 percent of owners have a degree.

Among those industries where owners have the highest levels of education, industries dominated by women-owned businesses rank in the top three, with over 80 percent of owners having at least a bachelor’s degree. Despite these higher levels of education, women-owned firms do not have the same outcomes in higher revenues as men-owned firms do across almost every industry.

Addressing the possible reasons behind this revenue gap is an area the NWBC is currently analyzing. Findings will be released throughout the summer.

Although the glass ceiling continues to be prevalent in our economy, there is good news. The new analysis shows that women-owned businesses lost a smaller share of jobs than their male counterparts during the recession.

This shows that, as women-owned businesses expand, they are doing so in a way that maintains the broader economic impact of job creation and makes a real difference in our economy.