Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Women: 50 Percent of the Population, But Only 35 Percent of Entrepreneurs

By Ranada Robinson, Senior Research Associate.

Today, I attended an Innovations in Economic Development Forum at Georgia Tech with my colleague Evan Robertson. The theme was Empowering Women Entrepreneurs, and the two speakers were Alicia Robb from the Kauffman Foundation and Jen Bonnett of StartupChicks.

In addition to the starting statistic cited in the title, women also account for less than 16 percent of owners of businesses with employees.

Alicia Robb talked about several important actions women must take to be more involved in the economy as well as some of the public policy implications.

  • Women need to learn to define success on their own terms, measuring personal satisfaction, independence, and balance, not just financial gain and firm size.
  • Women need to establish networks of mentors and peers and work on exuding confidence and being willing to seek funding. Did you know that only 21 percent of women entrepreneurs actually ask for angel capital?
  • Women need to increase their presence on the investment side—only 15 percent of angel investors are women and only about 11 percent of investing partners at venture firms are women.
Public policy suggestions included:

  • Encouraging more women to go into STEM fields,
  • Providing financial literacy training opportunities for citizens,
  • Developing more inclusive policies that encourage women and minorities to pursue entrepreneurship,
  • Making sure financial capital is available and affordable, and
  • Creating better balance between women and men at senior levels of angel investor networks and venture capital firms.

Jen Bonnett, one of the founders of StartupChicks, discussed her adventures in entrepreneurship including her most notable startup endeavor: eTour, which was acquired by She believes there are five main steps to success (in this order):
  1. Education: Not just degrees, but entrepreneurial training on topics such as financing, business operations, and negotiating.
  2. Community: Creating a support system of peers who can help each other as they travel similar paths.
  3. Coaches: Finding mentors and advisors to hold the entrepreneur accountable and provide direction.
  4. Connections: Developing the connections to investors and customers needed to grow a business—these may come from the coaches as a natural progression when they see how hard the entrepreneur is working.
  5. Capital: Women do not ask for the money they need to be successful—both speakers noted that men generally overstate their business’s growth potential while women frequently understate theirs.
Small businesses are critical to the American economy, and the gap between men and women entrepreneurship is still staggering even in 2012. Communities who are actively seeking to support and grow entrepreneurship and small business must strive to be all-inclusive in supporting and encouraging the lucrative ideas of every resident to see economic growth for all.

Graphic Source: