Reports on an analysis of women-owned businesses, identifying reasons for their limited growth and making recommendations for the type of messaging that the National Women’s Business Council could use to provide support.

“The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), which advises the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, initiated this research to better understand the reasons behind the general lag of women‐owned business growth, as compared to firms owned by men. Other studies had indicated that, on the whole, women and men approach entrepreneurship differently. In order to assist women, and the nation, to advance economically, the NWBC looked to the research to provide insights on key considerations when reaching out to women entrepreneurs to encourage maximum growth of their businesses.

The research conducted to address these questions included a literature review, as well as focus groups and telephone interviews with 81 women entrepreneurs from three metropolitan locations in the United States. The research centered on questions about three key attitudinal areas associated with business ownership and growth: risk, motivations, and expectations. The research team also listened for instances where culture could be influencing behaviors or experiences.

The participants were organized into four segments of women business owners groupings that were defined by the research team based on the literature review: (1) having high‐growth expectations, (2) having moderate‐growth expectations, (3) having children at home, and (4) making frequent use of outside advisors. The owners were placed into one of these segment based on their responses to screening questions. All participants came from industries defined as high growth nationally by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to maximize the likelihood that each had the potential to readily grow. In addition, participants had to have an interest in growing their businesses and have more than one employee (i.e., own an employer firm)” (p.1-2).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The study divides findings into those related to risk, motivations, expectations, and culture. They include the following: Risk • “The study participants who were most risk tolerant also held high expectations for business performance and growth” (p.2). • “Women business owners with children at home defined risks in terms of family finances, personal time, and personal reputation. In the other segments, the owners pointed to risks associated with business investments and finances more often” (p.2). Motivations • “The owners were mostly motivated by flexibility, work‐family balance, and independence. These motivations need to be considered potential influencers on business growth planning. • Wealth creation was an uncommon motivator” (p.3). Expectations • “Growth was not a central focus for many at the outset of their businesses; with more experience as a business owner, came more attention to growth. • The owners saw success in business as a reflection of their personal and professional success. However, the point at which an owner considers herself sufficiently successful seems to be influenced heavily by a need to balance business success with success in other areas of her life” (p.3). Culture • “Perceived expectations and norms around women’s responsibilities and roles had at least some influence on business growth decisions, as well as ownership decisions. Risk taking, motivations, and expectations were all affected. • Women expressed concerns about adding focus on business growth to their current workloads, which include home and workplace leadership roles and responsibilities” (p.3). After reporting findings, the study makes the following recommendations: “Messaging by the NWBC and its stakeholders to women business owners should: • Help women to see how to remain true to their motivations for business ownership (i.e., flexibility, work‐life balance, etc.) while accomplishing business expansion and wealth creation. • Acknowledge the multiple roles that women play and their desire to perform well in each of these roles. • Focus on risk management and positioning for opportunity as part of business growth planning and implementation. • Emphasize problem‐solving to achieve goals and encourage use of resources and tools to support owners as they grow their businesses” (p.3-4). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)