Sponsored Content brought to you by Bank of America
Written By: Kathy Burrell
Since the onset of the pandemic, women business owners have driven record levels of small-business creation. Annually, women-owned businesses drive over $1 trillion in sales, and in 2020, women created half of all new small businesses, compared with one quarter of new entrepreneurs in years past. At Bank of America, approximately 40% of our small-business clients are women, above the national average. Austin was recently ranked as one of the top metros in the nation where women-owned businesses increased their economic clout from 2014 to 2019.
Bank of America’s 2021 Women Business Owner Spotlight shows women business owners have a strong business and economic-growth outlook. Sixty-one percent expect their revenue to increase over the next year, while economic optimism and hiring expectations have also increased since last fall.
Nationwide, women have been leaving the workplace over the past year in a pandemic-accelerated exodus that reflects ongoing pay inequality and caregiving expectations that clash with today’s hybrid work environment. In September 2021 alone, more women left the workforce than the U.S. economy added jobs. Before the pandemic, women comprised over 50% of the U.S. workforce, underscoring their importance and vital contributions to the economy. When women have access to the tools and resources they need to operate, as well as increasing pathways to capital in Austin, our local economy and community grows and thrives.
Finding a work-life balance is difficult for women business owners even in non-pandemic times. They wear so many hats within their businesses, from CEO to salesperson to HR and everything in between. This year hammered home the importance of finding opportunities to take a break and unplug from the daily stress of owning a business, make time to do enjoyable activities, prioritize time with family and friends, adopt healthy lifestyle habits or unplug from the news.
Our data revealed women entrepreneurs are acknowledging the impact of pandemic-related stressors on their mental health and in turn are protecting their employees’ health and wellness. Half of women business owners took steps to counteract employee burnout by changing, or planning to change, their approach to employee wellness and benefits because of the pandemic, including allowing a more flexible schedule or remote work and offering more paid time off or sick days.
We know one of their biggest challenges is identifying sources of funding, particularly amidst the pandemic. Our 2021 Women’s Business Owner Spotlight indicates that 42% of women have never applied for a business loan or line of credit. Further, according to our previous research, almost 60% of women entrepreneurs say they do not have the same access to capital as their male counterparts, and nearly a quarter believe women will never have equal access to capital.
To help women business owners in Austin and across the U.S. navigate the capital landscape, Bank of America recently partnered with Seneca Women to launch the Bank of America Access to Capital Directory. The comprehensive searchable database allows women seeking capital to sort potential funding by type—including seed, Series A or late-stage equity, as well as grants and debt capital—depending on their business stage and needs. This first-of-its kind platform is the only place where women entrepreneurs can find this vital aggregated content.
As part of our ongoing work to invest in women, Bank of America provides mentoring and networking opportunities tailored to women to ensure they are getting the support they need. In 2020, we expanded the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell, a free Ivy League certificate program that helps women build skills and access resources to scale their businesses. To date, we’ve had over 30,000 women enrolled in the program, with over 90% identifying as Black, Hispanic/Latino or Asian.
With women-owned businesses representing over a third of total small businesses in the U.S., investing in their success in Austin has never been more important. Women entrepreneurs are fundamental to driving strong, healthy economies, and to create opportunities for these entrepreneurs to thrive and lead, it’s critical to understand their priorities, everyday realities and challenges. As women entrepreneurs accelerate the growth of their businesses and revitalize our local economy, Bank of America remains committed to their success all year long.