Right now, there are some impressive statistics on the number of women entrepreneurs in the US. This includes women-owned businesses and women in self-employment in the US – and the numbers are growing.
Women starting their businesses and entering the business or entrepreneurial space isn’t, of course, a new phenomenon. Even in the pre-postmodern, pre-feminist, pre-millennial era back in the last century, women were in business. Admittedly, though more often than not this was somewhat invisible – in small business partnerships like your local mom and pop store, or family-run organizations.
So, why are women starting businesses and becoming entrepreneurs today, and in what areas?
Numbers Speaking Volumes
The US Census Bureau reported in 2016 that women-owned businesses were on the rise. Data from the Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons (SBO) in 2012 indicated businesses owned by women totaled 9.9 million and accounted for $1.4 trillion in sales. The SBO is undertaken every five years. We expect analysis of findings from 2017’s data soon.
Similarly, The 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report suggests in 2016 women-owned start-ups were fueling post-recessional activity in the US. Their results indicate that in 2016, 11.3 million businesses owned by women in the US employed almost 7.9 million people and generated over $1.6 trillion in sales.
Data from these studies indicate women-owned businesses are across most industries, although mostly in healthcare and social services (doctors, dentists, residential and childcare), education and training, and professionals (lawyers, accountants, HR, and PR consulting).
There is also a possible growing trend in women taking up the opportunities available in the online technical and creative space through freelancing in the gig economy in areas such as web design, development, content, and copywriting.
Many Rivers to Cross
As we all know, life is not simple. There will be no simple answer to why more women are entering into startup enterprises and becoming entrepreneurs. What factors drive the ultimate decision, and what motivates the fundamental reason to do it? There will be individual and societal forces behind the decision, not to mention regional, geographical and local factors coming into play.
Results from the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship suggest it’s mainly opportunity versus necessity behind women’s motives to go into business, particularly in North America. This is similar to their comparison with men’s motive.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
So what is an entrepreneur anyway? At this point in history, it is a bit of a buzzword that does seem to have an association with masculine traits. A definitive explanation is debatable. Some think an entrepreneur is anyone running their own business. Others think an entrepreneur is only someone willing to run the risk of new and innovative opportunities. Either way, running a business through all stages and phases involves carrying risk, having a big dose of enthusiasm, and utilizing a multitude of skills and talents. Could this be a reason why women set up a business?
Flexibility and Freedom
There can be many reasons why someone would want flexibility and freedom in their career. For women, the gender roles within a society of being the one to care for children, aging parents, and so forth are still predominant. Self-employment can offer the flexibility to juggle it all – spend time with the kids as they grow, and earn an income and have your career as well. For others, they may have hit the glass ceiling as a female employee one too many times. Being self-employed and autonomous becomes a necessity for new challenges and self-worth. Flying solo and being your own boss as an entrepreneur is an incredibly liberating feeling.
A Matter of Survival
Times can be tough; there is no doubt about that. If faced with unemployment for any number of reasons, going into business can be an opportunity and a necessity to solve the problem. A job may become obsolete, or a relationship may end forcing women to retrain, develop a new skill, or find wares to peddle. For women with young families, trying to survive on one income can be difficult. Many women explore ideas to supplement total household income just to survive.
Plan A, B, C, or D
Some people simply like to explore every opportunity or live entirely outside the box. If Plan A of working in a desk job doesn’t pan out, they might move to Plan B and explore where that innovative idea can take them. It’s also becoming clear that shifts are happening in the workforce in the way people work. Larger corporations are outsourcing to sole entrepreneurs and freelancers. This, in turn, is resulting in more individuals categorized as self-employed rather than employees. This takes it back to reasons for starting a business related to opportunities available for those with an entrepreneurial spirit – women, and men included.