By Aaron London
The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to a report commissioned by American Express OPEN, between 2007 and 2016 the number of WOMEN-owned businesses increased by 45 percent!
The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Today is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. While that is cause enough for celebration, it is also worth noting that 2016 was a good year to be a woman business owner.
According to “The State of Women-Owned Businesses, 2016,” a report commissioned by American Express OPEN, between 2007 and 2016 the number of women-owned businesses increased by 45 percent, compared to an overall 9 percent increase in the number of businesses. The number of businesses owned by women also increased during that period from 29 percent in 2007 to 38 percent in 2016.
And Florida sits at the top of the heap as the fastest-growing state for women-owned businesses, tallying a 67 percent increase over the past nine years.
With all that good news, it would be easy to assume that attitudes about female entrepreneurs have also changed and women no longer face the barriers to success they once did. While some of those hurdles might be easier to clear than in decades past, other challenges have arisen.
“I think the biggest challenge that I’ve seen is when you are a single business owner versus a married business owner,” said Michelle Brown, owner of The Flagler Beach Gift Shop. “There are a lot of challenges there because a lot of activities that would be split between two people are on one person.”
Brown said one area where that is especially true is the lifeblood of small-business creation: access to capital.
“When you are trying to obtain loans that do influence your business, it can become a challenge” as a single person, she said.
Brown also has seen other challenges for women in business.
“I think there are some barriers still to women as far as what industries they get involved in,” she said. “A lot of things have opened up for us, but we are not encouraged to do some of the things that were traditionally thought of as male roles.
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That gender identification of “proper” jobs for women is not only outdated and sexist, it is counterproductive to economic growth.
The entrepreneurial explosion that occurred in the wake of the Great Recession added a new dimension to national and local economies. The risk-taking, not-afraid-to-fail attitude that is a hallmark of what we think of as the “entrepreneurial spirit.”
Discouraging women to pursue careers in certain fields because they are not considered “lady like” limits the potential for real growth and innovation in those areas. Much like the efforts to encourage more girls to study science, technology, engineering and math in primary and secondary schools, encouraging women business owners to bring their ideas and enthusiasm to traditionally male-dominated industries can only broaden and deepen the economic possibilities.
The advent of new technologies in production, communication and business in general has created conditions for sustainable economic growth as well as equalization of opportunity.
While attitudes are changing and more women are jumping on new opportunities, there may still be some residue of earlier prejudices.
“For me, personally, it is really hard to measure,” Brown said. “Sometimes, when I feel I hit roadblocks, it’s hard for me to discern if it’s because I am a female or because I am a single female with a business. It can be really hard for me to sort out and I just have to figure out how to get past this.”
If the business community at large and society as a whole can also find a way to get past it, then women will be making a lot more history to celebrate every March.