The State of Women Entrepreneurship

Just Economy Conference – May 10, 2021


Women entrepreneurs own more than 12 million businesses or 40% of all United States businesses, yet lack critical access to capital and the infrastructure needed to grow and build their businesses. The pandemic has highlighted these challenges, pointing out the funding discrepancies for women-owned small businesses. In this panel, speakers will provide a summary on the current state of women’s entrepreneurship and recommendations for a new path forward.


  • Martine Sadarangani Gordon, Vice President of Programs, Washington Area Women’s Foundation
  • Corinne Hodges, CEO, Association of Women’s Business Centers
  • C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO, Institute for Women’s Policy Research
  • Bruce Mitchell, PHD, Senior Research Analyst, NCRC
  • Heidi Sheppard, Project Director, DC Women’s Business Center
  • Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, SBA


NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.


Sheppard 00:14 

Good morning, everybody. Welcome. Welcome to the panel discussion on the state of Women’s Entrepreneurship. I’m Heidi Sheppard, the project director for the DC Women’s Business Center. today’s panelists will speak to you about the current situation that women entrepreneurs are faced with their challenges the way in which they have adapted so far and what they need to succeed in the future. Please put your questions into the chat box and we will answer them at the end of the session. I want to give you a little bit of context for today’s discussion. The DC Women’s Business Centers mission is to empower women entrepreneurs to build resilient and successful businesses strengthen their communities economy and create wealth for their families. While there are many small business support organizations out there, business centers devoted to supporting women entrepreneurs are essential. Research has shown that while women owned approximately 42% of all US Small businesses, only 25% of them seek business financing, and they are less likely overall to seek business loans than their male counterparts due to fear of rejection. When they do seek funding, they asked for $35,000 less than male counter entrepreneurs. In 2020. The effects of COVID on women on businesses was great female owned businesses in the US plummeted 25% from February to April 2020 42% of owners had to lay off employees. Adding insult to injury. Male business owners received an average of $6,655 more per PPP loan than female business owners, and approximately 3.4 male owned businesses received a PPP loan for every one female on the business. Women received less information regarding the current federal paycheck protection products, and they were told they qualified for a loan less frequently than men, despite being equally qualified. It is well documented that access to funding training and a robust support network are key ingredients in small businesses success. Research has found that network networks are especially a critical factor for female small business success. In that peer to peer networks encourage women to set higher aspirations for their businesses plan for growth and embrace innovation. Thus, it is vitally important to our economy that we continue to support women who own small businesses. with greater technical assistance and support women entrepreneurs in DC can raise more capital, generate more revenue, hire more staff and grow their businesses successfully. And now before we start the panel discussion, I want to hand it over to Miss Natalie Madeira Cofield, I gotta cook some opening remarks. She is the new assistant administrator for sbas Office of Women’s Business ownership, the previous founder and CEO of Walker’s legacy and the Walker’s legacy foundation in DC, named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in business. Thank you for being here. Miss Cofield? 


Cofield 03:32 

Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Heidi. It is a pleasure to be here with all who are in attendance around such an important topic as women entrepreneurship across this country and more specifically, also in the District of Columbia. As Heidi just mentioned, my name is Natalie Madeira Cofield and I serve as the assistant administrator leading the Office of Women’s Business ownership at the US Small Business Administration. Many people ask it Exactly what oboe does and oboe really serves as a champion and a voice for women entrepreneurs across federal government agency, representing more than 12 million women owned businesses ensuring that women have access to contracts, ensuring that women have access to capital and ensuring that women have access to counseling and training through our network of 135 Women’s Business Centers, including the Women’s Business Center here in the District of Columbia, right now is such a critical and pivotal moment for our national economy. We understand that it is critically important for us to get Main Street businesses back to business. The Small Business Administration over the course of the last month has released a number of programs to support entrepreneurs and small business owners as they navigate through this unparalleled time. These programs include the shuttered venues programs, understanding the impact that COVID-19 has had on the entertainment industry, and includes our restaurant revitalization grant program, understanding the impact that COVID-19 has had on our restaurant tours, our food service providers, and those businesses that make our communities feel like community. And we also have the PPP program, which you’ve just heard Heidi mentioned, where when divine Harris administration came in, we were adamant about ensuring that small business owners had access to PPP loans by making the second draw of PPP funds available to businesses first and foremost and had 20 or fewer employees. And we all know that when we look at the numbers for women owned businesses, more than 95% of all women businesses fall within that spectrum. We also double down on our messaging to ensure that everyone knew that if you were a solopreneur, which also significantly impacts women owned businesses that you two were eligible to receive PPP funding. And then lastly, the idle loan program was increased from $150,000 to half a million dollars in the loan program for this particular disaster, injury and disaster loan. And those small businesses that applied in previous rounds for the initial grant of $10,000 that may have received less than 10,000. We’re also notified that funding was now available to make the piece of funding that they received whole by providing the gap financing for the initial grant. So all this to say that the SBA has been aggressively working hard to better understand the needs and meet the needs of businesses during this time, while also continuing to meet the needs of everyday businesses that may or may not have been impacted by the pandemic or may need additional support to move through the pandemic through existing programs at the SBA has our micro loan program, our seven a loan program, our 5504 loan program, and counseling services across the country. In addition to for the purpose of our discussion today, I really want to make sure that I mentioned and encourage all women to consider certification for their small business through the Small Business program designed for women, the women own business certification program, which makes women eligible to compete for 5% set aside for targeted industries across the federal government for which women have historically been underrepresented. I’ll close by just saying conferences like today are so critical and important to us all because information is power, understanding what programs exist, where funding exists, how you can apply what you need to do to prepare and resources and building networks, even in a virtual moment is still critical. And it’s still so important. I want to thank the entire team at NCRC for inviting the Small Business Administration to come and provide opening remarks. Heidi and her team and the DC, Women’s Business Center for all that they continue to do to champion entrepreneurship for women. Thank you so much for having me. 


Sheppard 07:20 

Thank you so much, Natalie, really appreciate your opening remarks and keep up the good work and so glad that I’m working with you now at the Women’s Business Center and connected with SBA. Thank you. You’re welcome to stay on of course, and listen to their speakers. But now I’m going to introduce our first panelist who is C. Nicole Mason, the President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s policy research. The author of born bright, a young girl’s journey from nothing to something in America and the leading voice on Pay Equity, economic policies and research impact. Women. Thanks for joining us, 


Mason 9:02 

Nicole. I’m really excited to be here. And thank you for the invitation. 


Sheppard 9:07 

So tell us a bit about the Institute for Women’s policy, research your mission and and tell us what you’re doing now. 


Mason 9:15 

So the Institute for Women’s policy research is the nation’s only Research and Policy Center focused on winning women’s economic equity and building the women’s power and influence in society through sound research and policy and working with key stakeholders across the country. We are working on a number of initiatives. But our focus right now like many other organizations, is creating a gender equitable recovery of recovery that is just, um, takes into consideration the needs of families across the country who have been struggling over the last year and a half due to COVID-19. 


Sheppard 10:04 

So you coined the term succession in your report, building the future, both policies for a gender equitable recovery, to refer to the fact that women have experienced a disproportionate disproportionate number of job losses since the start of the pandemic, and dropping out of the labor force many more times greater than men. So how has this discrepancy affected the female versus male worker in the US? And can you talk briefly about what this could mean for the future of women, small business owners? 


Mason 10:33 

So you know, last week before the April, April jobs report, we were hoping that we were pivoting to the sheet covery. We were hoping that we were we you know, we would see signs that the economy was recovering, and we were on a rebound. But unfortunately, that was not the case. So since at the beginning of of January 22, we were celebrating a really critical milestone, the fact that women were 50% of the workforce. And two months later, the pandemic hit and women lost more than 11 million jobs. In just two months. We lost women lost four times as many jobs as their male counterparts. And this has continued to be an issue since you know since it started the pandemic. In August and September, when schools and daycares were slated to open another 865,000 women exited the workforce. And it was due, in fact, in part to school closures and women having to make tough choices between earning a living and taking care of their families, which I personally don’t believe that’s a choice that many women should have to make. But you know, they’ve many, many women did. And black and Latina women have been disproportionately impacted because they are more likely to be employed. And the hardest hit sectors service, leisure, hospitality education. And many of those jobs. As you know, Heidi are jobs that you have to show up for you have to physically show up to a location in order to get paid. And for many women. You know, many of these workers, they just weren’t able to show up physically to a location and also meet their caretaking responsibilities in need. The the term sheet session is just a word to describe the disproportionate impact of the COVID fueled economic downturn on women’s employment and income losses since it started the pandemic. It also provides us a helpful frame and strategy for thinking about how we might create a more equitable recovery. So if we can understand that women have been disproportionately impacted by job and income losses, we have to understand that that’s who we should center in our policy efforts at both the federal and state level. And the reason why that’s important is that in 2008, there was an economic downturn, but it disproportionately impacted men. And so there were job creation efforts that focused on production, manufacturing, and construction. But in this economic downturn, we have to do do things a little bit differently. We have to focus on childcare, make sure that women, we get schools open, daycares open and that women have adequate and stable childcare so that they can reenter the workforce and sustain employment, making sure that women have paid sick leave and access to other economic supports. You know, Heidi, you know, I just want to talk a little bit about what you said about the impact of the COVID fueled economic downturn on women entrepreneurs. So the fact of the matter is, is that many women choose to become entrepreneurs or small business owners because of their experiences in the labor market, whether it’s paying equity, or little flexibility. And so in many of these, you know, women entrepreneurs are You know, the owner may be the only employee or have a few employees and are operating on razor thin margins. And I’m thinking right now about the childcare industry who were operating on razor thin margins, and many had to close their doors as a result as a result of the pandemic. And when we look at when we when we pan out, and we see we asked men, the same men, entrepreneurs and business owners and women the same question, we understand that women are disproportionately suffering and having a hard time sustaining their business and their income in this moment, many have said that they’re not going to hire compared to men, they’ve seen increased decreases in revenue. Actually, to put a human face to this, I was on a call yesterday with my good friend who’s been an entrepreneur, small business owner for the last 25 years, and she was just distraught about the help that she was not receiving as a small business, you know, owner in New Orleans. And, you know, while these programs we heard at the top, from the Small Business Administration, better business, shutter business program, and all of these other programs, but I have to tell you, it’s amazed navigating many of those programs, and while they’re waiting to cut through the bureaucratic tape, many of these these small businesses are hanging on by a thread. So you know, you know, I just, you know, I’ll stop there. But those are my initial thoughts. 


Sheppard 15:34 

Very, very, yes, very interesting. And I know, there’s also a lot of research on what they’re now calling side printers. Women who struggle are starting businesses on the side for economic reasons and financial reasons, you know, increasing the number of small businesses but not necessarily increasing significant proportionally the revenue that they’re generating. And this is, you know, just so interesting that this is the direction that a lot of women are going in, it’s really out of necessity, that they’re starting these smaller side, side gigs. 


Mason 16:12 

What can I just say that I know that you want to move on here, but, you know, celebrate the fact that women and women of color are starting these side, businesses are more likely to become entrepreneurs, the numbers are you no high compared to other groups of women. But you really have to understand that this is very problematic, given the fact that you know, women start side hustles because they’re not making they’re not earning enough income. Because of the pay gap, and other systemic and institutional barriers, the fact that the workforce is not set up for their success, and so they can’t have children and meet their caretaking responsibilities and work. And so, and in this moment, when we understand that, you know, the unemployment rates are so high, and we’re in the middle of a recession, it’s a trickle down effect. So when people are employed full time employment, you know, we start missing that and then people who rely on that, that full time gainful employment for the side hustles whether it’s, you know, in the you know, the shadow economy or you know, trade for services or bartering, you know, that it hasn’t really disproportionate impact even on these these small side. You know, side printer businesses, 


Sheppard 17:25 

right, totally agree. Really great. Thank you so much, Nicole, it’s great having you here today. I know you can’t stay on past 12 noon, because of your parental 


Mason 18:41 

you know, so, 


Sheppard 17:43 

but I’m so glad that you were here and could offer your insights. If anybody has questions for Nicole, please put them in the chat or the comment and we will make sure that they’re answered later today. Okay, next, I want to talk about a survey that the DC Women’s Business Center and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition work together on this is a survey and a report capturing some of the salient data points around women entrepreneurship during COVID. to present the findings to you is Dr. Bruce Mitchell. NCRC is senior research analyst who specializes in the application of quantitative methods and has published works on disparities in access to financial services for minorities and people of lower socioeconomic status in the in the US. Hi, Bruce, can you talk and share slides about the survey and in our report and the key findings and takeaways? 


Mitchell 18:43 

Yes, thank you, Heidi. I’d be very happy to if you could please put the slides up. Thank you so much. So the DC Women’s Business Center and NCRC developed a survey with a primary intent of assessing how well their clients were doing. what their needs were during the covid 19 pandemic. We also engaged with other partners in the DC metro region. So the survey was prepared translated into Spanish. And the response rate was really quite good. We had 274 responses, of which 60% were by DC Women’s Business Center clients. So the survey wasn’t random, but focused on a group of primarily minority women business owners to gain feedback on their specific experiences and needs over the past year. And the survey was conducted in February and March of this year. So who took the survey 144 or 53% of the participants were black woman business owners. Compared to the district, we’re about 42% of all small businesses, both employer and non employer were minority owned. So this survey achieves its aim of being focused on the responses of black women business owners. There’s also a very good representation though of non Hispanic white business owners with Sorry about that, with 61 responses by Whiteman business owners, and additional 26 by Hispanic and 17 by Asian business owners. Now the industry is represented in this survey, it’s heavily tipped towards service related industries, with three areas being primarily representative over half the participants, first professional, scientific and technical services. And these run the gamut of specialized and highly skilled professional services that would be in high demand in the DC market. Then retail trade was second, followed by healthcare and social assistance is third. And it’s really no surprise that these industries are most represented since the first two are by far the most numerous in the country as a whole while the third of health care and social assistance that’s in the top five also, we have some interesting divisions that will may examine these by race and ethnic group of the participants. A quarter of the black and 1/3 of non Hispanic white participants were involved in professional scientific and technical services. While the Asian participants, they were evenly split between businesses in retail trade, and educational services, while Hispanic participants were heavily invested in the retail trade area. So we’re at the revenues of these different businesses. Well, what we find is that non Hispanic white business owners had the highest median revenues in 2019, between $40,000.60 $1,000 that year, with Asian and Hispanic women owners in the 20,000 to $40,000 category, while the lowest were black women owners in the $20,000 or less revenue category. The Division of industry may partly explain this. And we saw that black and white business owners were heavily involved in professional Scientific and Technical Services Alby it with lower percentages of black woman, the white woman, also the tenure of the business could be a factor with more of the black owned businesses open less than a year and fewer open 10 years or longer. Turn to the pandemic and how these businesses fared during the pandemic. Well, 42% of the businesses received some form of federal aid from the Small Business Administration. And this is either part of the paycheck Protection Program, or the economic injury disaster loan, however, and this was surprised me 45% they received nothing at all for federal state, local, from banks or from their families. And in fact, family systems that was third ranked, and 7% of the participants had to rely upon family members or friends to help support them during the pandemic. Once participants were asked what type of help they needed, the answers were dominated by helping the marketing of their businesses over 60% wanted some help finding and retaining customers associated with a 60% one assistance with expanding their digital outreach via social media or email, and 45% wanted help just in establishing some online presence. So there’s a real need among businesses for assistance with this type of marketing. After that, diversifying revenue streams help with accounting and financial assistance. We’re also areas that these businesses express some need. is smarter than needs. We’ve seen that many The business owners Express. For the most part, they remain very optimistic about the future their businesses and about the near term resolution of the pandemic. 74% believe that the pandemic will resolve this year 20% have already returned at this point to pre pandemic levels of operation, while 13% were not impacted by the pandemic at all in terms of their operations. Now, 40% of those businesses that weren’t impacted they were in management companies and enterprises. 29% of them were in retail trade, so I speculate they may have had an online presence already. We’ve done other work, looking at culturally significant black businesses and the district and the participants in that survey, they were able to rapidly pivot to online sales and experienced sales growth, especially when their products were in line with social movements like Black Lives Matter, or by black, which became very important over the past year. All in all, only 2% of the participants in our survey had to close their businesses during the past year, though that may not be in line with or overall experiences of women entrepreneurs. Since the survey, it may have had a higher representation of recently active DC Women’s Business Center clients or active climate clients with the other organizations. So what do we take away from the survey? First, that the DC what is business, it serves a relatively high percentage of minority women business owners. Second in terms of median revenue, the white non Hispanic owners had the greatest median revenue, while black owned business black business owners had the lowest. Third, as many of the participants receive federal assistance as received no assistance at all. Forth at the highest areas of naval related to marketing and customer attraction, and establishing a digital presence for their business, there seems to be a high demand for this. Finally, most business owners they were optimistic in their outlook over the next year, the survey was taken in February and March. So the vaccine delivery was being ramped up at that point and hopes were high that the worst impacts of the pandemic may have been over just as one final thought, from the survey, and that is that the for more minority of women making less yearly income entrepreneurship, it’s more than just a gig for them. It’s a pathway to combat racial discrimination, and inequities in wealth, because there’s a substantial racial wealth gap in this country. And this is one way in which that wealth gap may be surmounted. Thank you very much, Heidi. 


Sheppard 26:46 

Thank you, Bruce. That was really fascinating information. And the final study report that includes the survey will be coming out soon. So if you are interested, you can get a hold of it, we will be distributing it widely once the report is completed, written and put it in a good format. We will be releasing it with some other very interesting information. So thank you, Bruce. Okay, so this leads right into what our next panelists will talk about. Corinne Hodges is the CEO of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, working to increase capacity to the association and its membership. She has insight into what the nation’s Women’s Business Centers need in order to best support women entrepreneurs. So welcome, Corinne. 


Hodges 27:39 

Hi, welcome. Thank you for having me. Glad to be here. And I’m very happy to click the wrong buttons. I’m so just excited. Thank you so much for having us. 


Sheppard 27:49 

So can you share your organization’s mission or associations mission, tell us how it works to empower women to be entrepreneurs and small business owners? 


Hodges 27:58 

Absolutely. Well, as the CEO of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, I get to work each and every day to ignite opportunities for women who want to start and grow their businesses by supporting this network you mentioned, of 135 Women’s Business Centers nationally. And I know Natalie talked a lot about SBA his perspective on that Women’s Business Center program. What I do at the association is bring support and advocacy, both with Capitol Hill with the SBA and also building some capacity for the Women’s Business Centers. So for example, funding that was afforded to the Women’s Business Centers from the from the cares act, in 2020, was really able to achieve a record level of funding and then in 2020, we also saw record expansion of the Women’s Business Center program. There are now more Women’s Business Center resources available across the country than ever before in history, and that includes here in the district area, but I know your Women’s Business Center is the only Anyone in Washington DC and does an excellent job meeting the demand. Nationwide though, what we see is it’s no coincidence that women are breaking through barriers, they’re making dreams come true even in the aftermath of this pandemic. And it’s really the power of that entrepreneurship spirit, the synergy of some of the resources of the panelists that you brought on the call today. And really the ability for a WBC to network with these national partners to bring resources back to the field back to individual Women’s Business Centers. So while we’ve heard a lot of daunting statistics, there’s a lot of optimism and hope out there as well. 


Sheppard 29:40 

Did so what um, what have you heard from your membership with regards to challenges they are facing in terms of delivering services to women, that small business owners during COVID, 


Hodges 29:52 

I think I really want to focus first on the great successes, we’ve heard that there are some bureaucratic barriers to people getting access to the services they that they need. But we’ve seen across the Women’s Business Center network, specifically, that 2020 saw an increase in not only the demand for the services, but in within the reach that they that Women’s Business Centers were able to serve more clients than ever more than 82,000. across the country. 70% of those clients were women. 56% of them were people of color. And when we combine racial and ethnic background together, we’re seeing something like 65 or 70% of women falling into those categories. And so we’re, I think we’re doing a great job. But there’s always more work to be done, right. And when you look at the wealth gaps and disparities, we have to better understand how the resources can get where they’re needed. One such project that the Association of Women’s Business Center embarked upon to really just support Women’s Business Centers, but also provide some level of direct service came about also because of the cares act cares act required the Association of Women’s Business Centers in America’s SBDC to launch a website, which is COVID dash sb.org. Through that project, we also conducted a survey, which I was comparing with Bruce’s report just a moment ago, we looked at a slightly different dimension. And it was really about how our clients of Women’s Business Centers and other SBA resource partners finding federal grant assistance, what are they looking for? What do they need? How, and how are these resources doing being able to respond to them. And so just high level and I wouldn’t go through our methodology and whatnot, but it was a statistically sound survey with 1000s of responses. Essentially, what we found from the clients of our resource partners is that in this was a distinction between Bruce’s report that it wasn’t customer attraction and online presence as number one, rather cashflow, access to capital. And specifically access to and use of this these federal capital funds like PPP, right and idle. And now you got targeted idle. And what we’re seeing is the restaurant relief, or restaurant revitalization fund, et cetera. And so then we saw second to that pivoting to that online environment. And so whether you’re looking at a national audience, or obviously here in DC, it’s, it’s the age old question, which the same answer we’ve been giving for the 30 years, Women’s Business Centers have been around in 20 years at AWB C is around in its access to capital. And we just have not yet overcome that we just haven’t found the the magic solution to that as an ecosystem. 


Sheppard 32:48 

Right now I see that as well. With the reports that I read, and the in the input I get from my counselors and the small businesses that we that we talked to, it’s just access to capital is key. So what role do you feel the Women’s Business Centers have in correcting this unequal playing field for for women entrepreneurs? 


Hodges 33:12 

Well, I think Women’s Business Centers are perfectly equipped to help be the solution. Because it does take an entire ecosystem approach. Women’s Business Centers can’t solve this dilemma on their own. The banks can’t solve this dilemma on their own SBA can’t solve it on their own, but and I’ve just named a couple of the players in the entire ecosystem. But what’s great about the way Women’s Business Centers have demonstrated operating for three decades is by being integrated in their community by canvassing the local area by understanding all of the assets sort of mapping what those assets are, so that when a client comes to the Women’s Business Center, they know exactly what the client needs, not necessarily what they’re asking for, but they can identify what they need and connect them To the right resource, it’s just getting sort of the the cooperation of these other resources to play along. Right. And, you know, and to provide equity in terms of access to capital, etc. So I think Women’s Business Centers are just such an important piece of it with the infrastructure across the country, and already mapped to all of the assets that women need. It’s just getting the ecosystem to play along. 


Sheppard 34:26 

Totally agree. Thank you. Exactly. I mean, ensuring that we have an entrepreneur type equal access to opportunities is clearly one of the most important objectives of the Women’s Business Centers and the association helps our entire network by by serving as our collective voice as well. So thank you, Corinne. Thank you for being here. Absolutely.  


Hodges 34:47 

Thanks for having us.  


Sheppard 34:48 

Okay, our next panelist is Martine Sadarangani Gordon, the VP of programs for the Washington area Women’s Foundation, manager of the early care and education funders collaborative and is an expert on issues related to early education systems, the early care and education workforce and the childcare crisis. Hello, Martine. 


Gordon 35:15 

Hi, Heidi, good to see you. 


Sheppard 35:17 

Good to see you. Thank you for being here. So the Washington area Women’s Foundation is active and making grants to organizations that for one pursue economic justice, can you share your organization’s mission and tell us how it works to to empower women to be entrepreneurs and small business owners? 


Gordon 35:34 

Absolutely. So Washington Women’s Foundation is a community supported, that invests in the power of women and girls of color in the DC metro region. So we do this through grant making, and advocacy. And when we’re talking about supporting small business and social entrepreneurs in particular, for us, it’s a mix of direct funding and advocating for systems change. Because, as we’ve heard, and you know, we want we want women entrepreneurs, we want women of color, gender, expansive folks of color, to have the money. So we want to give you the money. But we also want to change the game, right? We want to advocate so that, you know, that limit, the limited access to capital that when mentioned, and others have spoken to already today, that, you know, we’re not the only ones giving them money. So our work is really at the intersection of advocating for systems change and giving money directly. 


Sheppard 36:37 

To unmute myself somehow. Okay. So great. Good. So can you can you talk a little bit about the stem together Fund, which I believe was founded in response to the disproportionate impact on women and girls of color, public health and economic crisis? And how do you think it can influence change? 


Gordon 36:57 

Yeah, so stand together. And we found it last year. You know, there were a lot of philanthropic circles, there were a lot of COVID relief funds. And we initially actually didn’t launch our own stand together fund came about because our team saw some really specific needs that we felt needed to be elevated specifically in in private investment circles. So philanthropic philanthropy, in circles, corporate philanthropy circles. And we were working, and we continue to work in partnership with other but you know, pooled investment models that weren’t responding to the crises. And of course, there were a lot of needs, and there continue to be a lot of needs for investment, we really saw that there was a strong need for elevating to areas in particular, and this was early on last year. And for us, the needs of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and also the needs of the care workforce. We really felt locally that is predominantly women of color populations, that, you know, they needed someone to stand up for them with the private funding and and so we we launched an together fund to do just that. And we’re really proud of the attention I got locally and that we were able to award grants to women and gender expansive people of color led survivor support organizations. We were really proud to be able to provide direct cash assistance to over 300 care workers in the region through the fund. And so that’s that’s already started to shift the conversation actually. So for local philanthropy, we we saw that, you know, safety, women’s safety and domestic violence issues and addressing trauma and that was is compounded for folks who had previously experienced trauma and now they were having to comply with stay at home order homeowners and other things. And those conversations really were elevated alongside stand together found we were not only able to award money, but to, to our strategy of awarding funds and advocating we were asked to speak both locally and nationally on the state of the care workforce, and of survivors during this time. And so we we know that we’ve already had folks reach out to us and say, How can we do that? How can we find differently as well, and, and then going forward to the topic of our conversation today stands, we’re really excited that Sam together fund will continue. And we’re looking at supporting a more holistic view of women’s safety and the safety of young women and girls of color, in particular, in DC. And we’re really hoping to work with our partners to help build back better by continuing to invest in survivor support organizations, but again, looking more holistically at safety and looking at what a safe school reopening looks like, for girls of color, gender, expansive folks of color, what Safe Communities look like, as we move forward. And a big part of that is investing in youth of color to be at the table directly to be social entrepreneurs, to direct the conversation and direct and invest in them directly. So we’re really excited that stand together fund is going to have is going to continue and have a role as we build back better. 


Sheppard 40:42 

Great, great, great work. So it’s really amazing. So I know you sort of touched on this a little bit, but where if you could expand a little bit more, where do you see the intersection of public health and Women’s Entrepreneurship? 


Gordon 40:55 

Oh, yeah, I mean, so you know, Nicole, and the other panelists addressed this a little bit too. But, you know, when we think about who an entrepreneur is, some of us, I think, have different images of who she is, we’ll say in this case, and to the point Nicole made earlier, you know, not all entrepreneurship is created equal, right. So if we look at an example locally in the DC region, family childcare providers, just as an example. So this is a population, they’re small business owners, right, they’re self, mostly self employed. And in the DC region, they’re mostly women of color, and or immigrant woman. And they don’t make a lot of money. And they’re, you know, in fact, so over 34% of early educators in DC are living in poverty right now. And, you know, for a family childcare providers don’t necessarily have access to health insurance, paid sick leave, and other resources that just allow you to be well. And so when we, when we look at when we look at that alone, and the impact that has on on public health, so, you know, if you can’t take a day off when you’re sick, if you can’t afford health insurance, where does that leave you during a pandemic or any other public health crisis. And we did a study at the Women’s Foundation A few years ago, and found that maybe half of early educators in the region had access to health insurance, it was unclear if that was because they were out of partners plans, or they had they were, you know, had it through another means. But certainly half isn’t, isn’t a stellar number. And we know that in Virginia, about only half of the Virginia workforce overall, has access to paid leave. So when we’re looking at when we’re looking at, you know, the the the security that one might have, from having a full compensation package at a, you know, an institution where they might be employed, is a little bit different than when you’re talking about it, you know, as a society, encouraging people to be entrepreneurs and to be creative and to, you know, be independent and lead. And I think that, you know, we, as in the US, we value that, right, we value that independent entrepreneurial spirit. But I think that we’re really not our policies, and how we invest in folks who have the desire and the will and the drive to do just that. I think we really have to really consider where we’re, if we’re demonstrating our value there and I think that right now, many of Our financial investments and our policies. They’re creating unintentional barriers to that is to something that Curran said earlier. She mentioned the access to capital. Right. And, you know, yeah, it the policies and the money, they they flow in the same way. So. 


Sheppard 44:20 

Yep. Yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot of work yet to be done to help women, be healthy, be safe, and also be successful. Entrepreneurship, you know, is one way. But it’s not, obviously not the only way. But it is. Clearly, there’s still work to be done to help and be successful in these ways. So thank you, Martine. We have a few minutes for questions now. So I’m going to go back to the chat or comment section and see what questions have come in. I know there are a lot while we were speaking, you just look here. Um, let’s see. Corinne, is it possible for you to speak to the n double A CP? o? Sorry, that’s an invitation to Corinne. I will pass along. Recording? Yes. I’ll pass it along to you Corinne. Will the recording of these presenters be available? Yes, they will. This session is being recorded, and it will be made available. Chloe answered that question. Any other questions? I don’t see any other questions in the chat or comment box? So while you’re thinking of your questions, here’s a question from Jason. What is the single biggest solution that each of the panelists think might make an impact on the success of women business owners as a pandemic moves into the next stage? Good question. Okay, who would like to tackle that one first? All right. 


Hodges 46:06 

Well, there are there isn’t a single biggest solution. If there were we could all jump on that rocket and sail to the moon and be done and just be done in over this. But I love this spirit behind the question. I mean, obviously, that’s what we would love to be able to do. I think it depends on where we are, what control what power we have, how are we identifying where we spend our own individual dollars, not only our personal dollars, but our business dollars or nonprofit dollars, are we putting dollars in a place that can make the most sense, sometimes it requires really being thoughtful on the front end of a procurement decision, so that you can empower women businesses, or minority businesses, or minority women businesses to be successful. Sometimes it’s where you put those procurement announcements or where you’re looking for your shopping or how you identify your businesses. It’s it the problem solving, I think, starts with where the dollars go, you know, on Commerce, that’s something we can all definitely take back. So that’s where I like to tell people to start. And if your mindset starts there, and where you’re spending your dollars, that I think other things start flowing and start going along with it. 


Gordon 47:25 

I would like to add to what Corinne said, I think you we really have to listen to the people impacted. Right. And so the reason, one of the reasons there’s not a silver bullet is because there’s so there’s such a diversity of this population. And, and that’s wonderful and rich and makes us all better. But I think a lot of times, our policies, and our investments are streamlined so that they’re the most efficient. On the front end, they’re the easiest to expedite. And fast is great, right? Because people need money now, but a level of thoughtfulness and a level of engaging the community to be invested in so that those dollars, and those systems are designed to benefit them and don’t create any unintentional barriers on the unintentional challenges. And that that takes a little bit more time, but it is absolutely worth it. If we’re going to make this right. And to Corinne’s point, there’s lots of energy and drive around that question. And unfortunately, the problems that we’re talking about have existed for so long, and they are deeply entrenched in everything we do that we are going to need a holistic, thoughtful, intentional approach that doesn’t just look at one aspect. 


Sheppard 49:02 

Bruce, would you like to chime in, you don’t have to. But if you have a thought 


Mitchell 49:05 

to try, I’d say from point back to our survey on this and just state that, to reiterate Martine’s point about diversity, and that I believe that different groups of when business owners may have slightly different needs, and also may be able to capitalize on different social movements, they’re currently growing in different ways. For instance, we found a lot of impact. And another survey, we did a cultural significant business on the Black Lives Matter movement, and this whole movement to buy black and how that was a substantial impact in the success of many black owned businesses that were able to go online and increase their digital presence. 


Sheppard 49:51 

Great, really interesting. Okay, so how does another question how do organizations with economic development committees best support women entrepreneurs as we come out of COVID 


Hodges 50:06 

I mean, supplier diversity is obviously critical here. I come from an industry background. So before joining the association, Women’s Business Centers, I worked with Kia Motors, manufacturing, Georgia, and we worked very intentionally with a supplier diversity organization, outside of the business, and also with the economic development engines across the state in the communities and the counties. And what I would say, in a, in a very southern place, if you know anything about where that factory is located, despite the availability of, of minority products and services to meet the needs of the company, we did not necessarily always understand who is available out there. So the economic development engines can help bring that marketplace together and be a great meeting place. So doing things like, you know, sort of supplier and, and, and buyer matchmaker sessions, and I think, really elevating the awareness of the purchasing power of whoever those organizations or industry within that community can be a great start. It’s the kind of thing that takes a while to yield results, but you have to start somewhere. 


Sheppard 51:27 

Other thoughts? Martine? Bruce? 


Gordon 51:31 

I mean, this is certainly not, I’m gonna yield the specific details to current on that one. But I think it goes, it generally goes back to a lot of what we’ve been saying, you know, this is this is for things to change, we really have to take the time to think about how, how we need to do things differently. So you know, a lot of our a lot of not just with, with, you know, in the business sector, and I think in a lot of sectors, you know, organizations will think that they’re going to add a justice lens, a diversity lens, they’re going to change what they’re going to do. But a lot of what they end up doing and very well intentioned, is very public facing, and I think for, for real change to happen. We all have to be self reflective, and be willing to change internally how we do things and be thoughtful about how we do things. So just to reiterate what the Queen said about taking the time to get to know. And I hear all the time will, you know, I put out a request for proposals or, and and no one responded. It’s like, Well, you know, where did you advertise it? Who is it is that some is that the method that the population that you’re trying to reach is used to responding to? I think we need to we need to really think about all of those things. And that can be intimidating, for sure. But there are folks who have done it before. And when I’m sure would love to help, you know, plug for plug in for the business centers, would love to help in organizations thinking through how they can do that. 


Sheppard 53:21 

Right. And we like you said, we are definitely here to help. And we do get involved in various economic development organizations around the city and try to encourage different ways that they can be involved in helping entrepreneurs coming out of COVID. Bruce, did you want to make comment? 


Mitchell 53:42 

Yeah, Corinne had mentioned the access to capital as being a very important need also, as businesses are coming out of COVID. The ones that have survived this pandemic, there’s going to be a new need to be real emphasis on access to capital and oftentimes there’s a discouragement for minority for women owned businesses from even applying for a bank loan or applying for small business, ministration loan. And I think those things are critical as businesses ramp up their operations in a post COVID type of economy. 


Sheppard 54:16 

Right, I do think this access to capital is is critical. And one of the things that I’ve read about is just the one of the reasons why so many businesses didn’t get PPP initially was that they didn’t have a relationship with a bank. They didn’t have their financials in place. And and this is just like, you know, going back to your basic, what do you do when you start a business? Who are your support entities, one of which is a banker, and a banker can help you with your bookkeeping, getting your budget in place, you know, all those things. I mean, the Women’s Business Center helps as well. But having a bank in your back pocket is really, really essential. 


Gordon 53:57 

How do you just want to edit slightly, having a relationship with the right bank was critical in that first round? And I think that, you know, because they’re not every bank was giving them out. And so if you did have a relationship with one of those banks, when if you had all of your banking stuff in order, and you were doing, you know, everything you were supposed to do in that first round, in particular, it was very limiting.  


Sheppard 55:26 

Yes, yeah. Great. So I have one more question. And then we may need to stop after this question. But can you touch on women of age, still working, that are never discussed? Anybody want to tackle that one? 


Hodges 55:41 

Well, we could do another breakout session, a full panel on it, I guess I want to know what the question really is trying to get toward is it to understand what the trends are, what the resources are. I mean, obviously, we at AWBC, we partner with the AARP Foundation, to better understand how the intersection of aging women and entrepreneurship can come together, we’ll be launching a grant opportunity in the next six weeks for small businesses who employ lower income employees, men or women 50 Plus, but it doesn’t speak. That particular program doesn’t speak to the small business owner of a particular age, I do want to just say, Well, I recognize there are some very specific challenges to that demographic. We’ve identified the greatest challenges, I think, really based on the stats and and i would the breakdown that we’ve seen with our national survey, that really the greater challenge comes with minority versus the older women category. So that’s why we’re focusing so much, I think of the dialogue right now on that area. 


Gordon 56:58 

I think I’ll just add, and, you know, hopefully, the person who asked that question can put some context in the chat to Corinne’s question. But, um, you know, when we look at women of color, who, we know that there are wealth gaps in this country, racial wealth gaps in this country, and we know there are gender wealth gaps in this country. So when you think about who has to keep working, who that aging population who needs to work, because they’re still living paycheck to paycheck, and they don’t necessarily have the retirement. I think I think that’s really something to explore that certainly something that in my work with the early care and education workforce locally, we saw a really big challenge during the pandemic, when you look at older women, who are early educators, family, childcare providers, they’ve been doing this work, small business owners doing this work for, you know, decades. And suddenly, especially in the beginning of the pandemic, they felt they had to close, because they thought their lives were at stake and in truth, a lot and a lot of times, potentially, they were, as we know, with this disease, and so, you know, that really created a scenario where in particular, older, older women who are working in that field, and if they close, they don’t get paid, right? Like they don’t. So you basically have to choose between earning an income and your life. And that’s not a choice. And so, there, it’s, it’s embedded in, in all of this and to to, you know, hopefully we can get some more. We could do a longer session. But I just wanted to elevate that because there is there is all of this is correlated to why people would continue to need to work not desired but need to To work? 


Sheppard 59:01 

Yeah, absolutely. Well, unfortunately we are at time. Um, somebody asked Corinne, if you could provide a link to the grant for women over 50 in the chat, or you can you can put it in a private chat, I think. And then 


Hodges 59:17 

I just want to say, ready? Yeah, we don’t have a link because it won’t be open for six more weeks. But come back to our website, AWBC dot ORG, put something on your calendar. Come back in six weeks, seven weeks, it’ll be there. Thank you so much for being interested. 


Sheppard 59:32 

Great. Well, I want to thank all of the panelists for today’s really lively, interesting discussion on so many different aspects of the state of women entrepreneurship in DC and across the country. And I just want to say thank you to the audience participants. And to just remind you that you should check out the rest of the amazing content and the just economy sessions that are yet to come. Just go back to your agenda and join any upcoming session that that looks appealing to. Again, thank you stay safe, and be careful and enjoy the rest of the conference. 


All 1:00:14 

Bye bye. 

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