Small business administration must adapt to close the gender gap

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As we celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month, I’d like to share some really good news: Over the past 40 years, the number of women-owned businesses in the United States has exploded from just 5 % of all companies at over 42%, moving closer and closer to parity with our male counterparts.

Translated into pure numbers, four decades ago there were approximately 400,000 women-owned businesses nationwide; today we have over 13 million people, mostly small businesses, generating nearly $2 trillion in revenue. Here in Michigan, where I am the Founder and President of L’amour Bridal in Dearborn, the number of women-owned small businesses has grown to more than 330,000, and we employ nearly 30,000 Michigan colleagues.

But even with our growing numbers and growing financial impact on the communities where we live and work, the enduring success of women-owned small businesses remains far more fragile than that of our male counterparts.

We are more likely than men to struggle to retain employees, meet revenue goals, and compete with big business.

The reason this gender gap persists is, of course, complicated and often affects female entrepreneurs differently. Working mothers still shoulder much of the family’s caregiving responsibilities, and the pandemic has pushed us and the already tenuous web of childcare options to breaking point.

We cannot sustain our businesses if our communities lack affordable, high-quality child care options for both female entrepreneurs and working mothers. It is a national dilemma that deserves a coordinated national response. There are, however, other areas where specific actions can be taken immediately to help women entrepreneurs thrive.

A recent Goldman Sachs survey of small business owners across the United States found that half of female small business owners face significant challenges finding and retaining employees, compared to 44% of men. Women are also more likely than men to say they are hampered by competing for workers from larger companies that may offer more generous pension and health insurance benefits.

My fellow female entrepreneurs and I take the opportunity presented by National Women’s Small Business Month to call on our policymakers to address these stubborn disparities by reauthorizing and modernizing the Small Business Administration (SBA) for the first times in more than two decades. Bringing the SBA into the modern age, with a contemporary sensibility to the tools and resources women entrepreneurs need to survive and thrive in our ever-changing economy, is essential to meeting the needs of our small business community.

• Modernize access to SBA programs, eliminating cumbersome and redundant paperwork.

• Streamline and bring SBA application processes into this century — Step 1: Eliminate document faxing requirements!

• Let’s ensure that the SBA expands access to capital for small businesses by filling current gaps in the credit market, especially for women-owned small businesses unable to find credit elsewhere.

• Let’s create an information system that better informs small business owners of important programs that have historically been underutilized because they are difficult to find and navigate. »

• And hold the SBA accountable for meeting its own goal of awarding five percent of federal contract dollars to women-owned small businesses.

The SBA has consistently failed to achieve this goal. In fact, federal contracts awarded to women-owned small businesses have actually dropped from 2020 to 2021. Let’s reduce the barriers that get in our way before we even get started, including high bonding requirements and the cost in time and money of preparing voluminous responses to federal requests for proposals.

As I said at the beginning, we have come a long way since the days not too long ago when women were required to have a male relative to co-sign a business loan. (Fact check: true.) But as we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of America’s women small business owners, let’s support our women small business owners by taking strong, measurable, and common sense actions that reflect the realities of what’s happening. it takes to succeed in our modern society and ever-changing economy.

Hana Abboud is the founder and creative director of L’amour Bridal in Dearborn. The Central Michigan University graduate is also an alumnus of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices program, which provides education, training and support to small business owners nationwide.

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