New Reports Outline Strategies to Support Female Entrepreneurs, Accelerate Economic Growth in Wisconsin, U.S.

July 23, 2015

Women as business owners may be an underutilized resource for economic development and growth in the state of Wisconsin, according to a recent study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) – Women Business Leaders Across Wisconsin, 1990-2011. The researchers found that women-owned or managed more than 80,000 Wisconsin-based businesses (nearly 19 percent of all businesses) in 2011. Those businesses employed over 550,000 workers and earned $45 billion in sales. The authors found that the number of women-owned or managed businesses more than tripled between 1990 and 2011, growing significantly during the 1990s and then stabilizing between 2000 and 2011.The study also cites research that women-led businesses are more effectively led, financially honest, have more customers, increased sales and greater profits.

However, the authors contend that women entrepreneurs may be an underutilized resource for economic development and growth. The authors highlight that only 19% of Wisconsin-based businesses are owned or managed by women, which is well below the national average for women-owned businesses – approximately 33 percent, according to the U.S. department of Commerce. The authors also found that women-owned businesses in Wisconsin employ fewer workers on average than the typical Wisconsin business regardless of industry sector.

The authors conclude that this inequitable distribution of business may be hurting the economic prosperity of the state. By increasing the number of women-owned or managed businesses, Wisconsin may be able to accelerate economic growth across the state. To achieve this, the authors call for the state to develop policies aimed at equitably enhancing business ownership that include increasing the number of female c-level executives; adding women to the boards of directors; and, attracting women to tech startup teams. Read the report…

In a recent policy digest from the Kauffman Foundation, researchers found that lower rates of female participation in entrepreneurship left their potential as job creators, innovators, and drivers of economic growth unrealized. They contend policymakers can unleash a wealth of ingenuity and creativity that can spark a new era of entrepreneur-led growth in America by addressing this gender gap in entrepreneurship. Similar to the UW-Madison study,  the researchers highlight recent research that confirms many female entrepreneurs bring particular sets of skills that not only set them apart from their male counterparts, but also lend themselves to being successful entrepreneurs.

The report also includes three reasons that have created unique barriers to entrepreneurship for women including: female mentors are in short supply; entrepreneurship is perceived as a masculine activity; and, women face additional hurdles maintaining a work-life balance. To address these barriers, the report provides five policy recommendations:

  • Develop and report metrics for entrepreneurship programs and initiatives;
  • Increase the number of women represented in entrepreneurship programs including mentors and leaders of entrepreneurial support organizations;
  • Increase Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding to women-owned businesses;
  • Celebrate successful women entrepreneurs; and,
  • Decrease the risk of becoming an entrepreneur.

At its Women’s Entrepreneur Network Summit, Dell announced results of the first-ever Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard – a study that highlights the opportunities and challenges to female entrepreneurs in 31 countries as they attempt to launch and scale a business, create jobs, and disrupt industries. The metrics developed were divided into five categories:

  • Relative business environments;
  • Access to resources;
  • Leadership and rights;
  • Pipeline for female entrepreneurship; and,
  • Potential for high-growth women-owned businesses.

The report found the U.S. finished as the best country for a woman to launch a startup – with a score of 71 on a 100-point scale – due to its overall favorable business environment and women’s job mobility in the private sector. However, the authors conclude that there is still significant room for improvement in the areas of capital availability and innovation ecosystem. Female entrepreneurs in the U.S. also feel significantly less qualified to start a business. To address both a lack of global female entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in the U.S., the authors provide several recommendations including:

  • Narrow the gender data gap by measuring progress of women entrepreneur-focused initiatives;
  • Prioritize female-owned businesses in public and private supply chains;
  • Promote and empower women in the workplace;
  • Raise the visibility of female role models in business; and,
  • Build entrepreneurship skills for girls by investing in STEM education.

Read the report…

In last week’s edition of the Weekly Digest, SSTI examined two recent academic research studies on the impact of university culture, IP Policy, and TTOs on patenting activity by female academics. The studies concluded that university structures, entities, and mechanisms play a vital role in increasing patenting activity by female academics. Read the article…

Wisconsininclusion, entrepreneurship, policy recommendations