THE RISE OF THE FEMALE ENTERPRISE
Change is tough. It is never easy. There always is and always will be a resistance to change. The notion that we have always done things this way continues to drive certain demographics, because change brings the unknown and the unknown, in turn, brings fear.
The clashes of generations are especially more visible when political elections occur. Generational attitudes drive social, political and economic issues and our society continues to evolve as the newer generations continue to become the central force that drives the economy.
The greatest illustration to this (other than race, of course) is gender. Gender is the central social, economic and political discussion we are having today.
Yes, there are differences physiologically between males and females and in turn, this difference shapes our mental makeup. It is biology. This cannot be ignored, but to say or maintain an implicit bias where males and females have different aptitudes in providing greater benefit to society and the economy more than the other; or the conception that one gender is just “smarter” (an immeasurable trait, by the way) than the other, is a notion that just needs to be eliminated.
As the millennial generation continues to grow in numbers and in age, there will be significant overhauls to the workplace, management and the business landscape in general and women are at the forefront of this overhaul. This change and growth is already taking place.
The Numbers Do Not Lie.
Remember, an entire thought process is being revolutionized. Up until the last two generations (Generations X and, now the Millennial Generation), women were expected to solely be the nurturers and homemakers for the family.
Having no real working or business world experiences, how could one develop the mindset and thought-processes that is ripe for business and the workplace to begin with? One thought to bear in mind, as change has been slow and frustrating.
Although, women initially began entering the work force overall technically in the 1970s, the main push for the quality, equality and pay of those jobs (i.e. jobs other secretaries, nurses, etc.) took place in the late 1990s in to the early 2000s.
Women have not only made progress on the corporate scale climbing the proverbial ‘corporate ladder’, but have also made great strides towards the root of the labor force – entrepreneurship.
Through the last decade alone, we have witnessed the strongest growth in women-owned enterprises.
According to a powerhouse 2016 research publication, commissioned by the American Express OPEN committee – The State of Women-Owned Businesses, several key trends have been highlighted by the annual report:
1. Growth is at a rate fully 5x faster than the national average
Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%, compared to just a 9% increase among all businesses.
2. Comparative employment growth (women-owned vs. all businesses) is even stronger
Employment in women-owned businesses has increased by 18% since the recession, while among all businesses; employment has declined 1% since 2007 amounting to a net new 340,000 jobs created.
3. Businesses revenues among women-owned firms have increased by 35% since 2007
This is in comparison to 27% among all U.S. firms. 30% higher than the national average.
4. Women are now the majority owners
Of the 38% of the United States’ businesses today (2016), women are now the majority owners. This is an increase from just 29% in 2007.
Headwinds still exist. Although the data published in the American Express report show us positive trends in women heading into the entrepreneurial landscape, key barriers remain.
1. Access to Financing
The biggest challenge is external financing and Venture Capital (VC) funding. The VC and angel investing community is heavily male-dominated.
Think this does not matter? Think again.
Venture Capitalists invested $58.2 Billion in companies with all male-founders, compared to women receiving just $1.46 Billion throughout 2016 (Pitchbook, 2016).
In another analysis conducted by TechCrunch in 2016, only 7% of partners at top VC firms are women. When diversity in gender amongst the board is this small, perspectives are diminished. Thus, spotting market opportunities would be tough to identify especially when it relates to marketing a product to the female consumer (which is in fact, the largest component to the U.S. and global consumption).
Probably the most underrated aspect to being an entrepreneur and life in general. Since VC firms comprise of the greatest concentrated capital and are male-dominated, women are finding it difficult to have a mentor to guide them through the entrepreneurial journey.
Much more progress needs to be made. The American Express OPEN report does show, however, trends heading in the positive direction.
The positives are both tangible and intangible.
1. Shifting the mental mind frame
To begin anything and especially taking on social norms, the mental mindset has to have enough fortitude to withstand the naysayers of progressive change and to face any sort of adversity. Having the courage to build, let alone, begin a successful business is a positive trend in a traditionally male-dominated arena.
Remember, the greatest surge of women-owned enterprises and taking on entrepreneurial endeavors occurred directly in response to the Great Recession of 2008-2009, with a 5 to 1 ratio as exemplified in the first trend highlighted in the report.
2. Appetite for Risk
‘Risk Taking’ is not a measurable trait. It is an implication. Going back to the first positive takeaway (and the 5 to 1 ratio), shifting the focus to entrepreneurial endeavors in a time of what was thought to be the end of the financial and economic world is enough to disprove the notion that females do not have a great appetite for risk.
Maintaining an appetite for risk is an essence to beginning a business in the first place. Without this virtue, enterprises never get built to begin with.
3. Opportunity Driven
According to another study conducted by the Kauffman Foundation in 2016, women are more likely to be way more opportunistic than their male counterparts.
What does this mean?
Women decided to launch businesses when they saw an opportunity in the marketplace and not forced into it by a loss of a job. The Kauffman study cites 85% of new women entrepreneurs were launching due to opportunity compared with 78% for men.
Remember that tidbit about the lack of financing? That may or may not be a bad thing depending on who you ask.
Female founders surveyed by FORTUNE Magazine in 2016 have noted, that the little to no access to VC funding and other external financing actually has taught them how to cash and boot strap their businesses and really be meticulous in how cash is spent.
This leads to healthier growth of the enterprise, albeit a slower road to profitability, but rather provides a very valuable intangible trait that without, take down budding entrepreneurs more often than not.
Although the numbers and data are currently less than desirable in the overall general economic landscape, positive progress in the rise of female entrepreneurs is being made. The millennial generation will lead this charge in the many decades to come.
Studies overwhelmingly cite that the American consumer is dominated by women. Since 70% of the U.S. economy (GDP) revolves around consumer spending anyways, this should provide more urgency to traditional companies and VC firms to understand that women are vital to the bottom line and vital to the sustainability and profitability of businesses in the future.
Hence, if profitability is the wholly grail of an enterprise, you will always need a female mind and opinion on your team if you want to win in the 21st century.
Numbers never lie.
Find out more about Ahmed Muneeb at