Despite positive progress in the past few decades, the footing is still unequal for men and women in business. Women still on average earn less than men, and according to a McKinsey study, only 79 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men.
However, a Small Business Administration (SBA) blog states: “The growing prevalence of women entrepreneurs hasn’t happened by accident. A big part of the growth of women-owned small business is legislation that targeted the creation of resources and networks for women.”
So, here’s how and why you can use women in business resources to bridge the divide for your own company.
Resources for Women in Business
We also curated a list of the best small business resources for women. From financial resources to local resources, we'll help you get the most out of your entrepreneurial journey.
Why Are Business Resources for Women Important?
According to the SBA blog, a behind-the-scenes push to expand the availability of resources for women in business explains why female entrepreneurs are becoming more and more successful.
The SBA uses the Women’s Business Ownership Act — passed 30 years ago — to demonstrate the powerful influence of small business resources for women. “The Act was one of the first things that empowered women to be entrepreneurs on their own terms,” reads the blog.
It recognized the role women play in the nation’s economy and established the Women’s Business Center Program, which in 2017, supported more than 150,000 women, resulting in $1.7 billion in revenue growth and 17,000 new jobs.
According to the SBA, “Research shows that women who receive counseling and mentoring early in the development of their business are more successful than those who don’t.”
Resources legitimately help women in business because they go right to the root of the problems women face.
For example, Forbes reports that one of the largest barriers blocking women from success is the lack of mentorship and networking opportunities. One Venture report found that “only 8% of partners in the top 100 venture capital firms are female.”
As a result, women often suffer from “similar-to-me-effect,” feeling discouraged by the lack of peers or mentors who look like them. Networking or community resources like The Female Entrepreneurship Association remedy this issue and help women increase their confidence.
Gaining access to capital can be a big struggle for female entrepreneurs, particularly because another key problem women in business face is a lack of visibility. The media does not shine its spotlight as brightly on women as it does men, with research showing “only 26% of internet news stories and media tweets combined focus on women.”
In response, there’s been an increase in resources dedicated to giving women a bigger platform, like Globally Spotted and Savor the Success, and organizations focusing workshops or online classes on how women can better take advantage of social media.
Do Business Resources for Women Actually Help?
There are a plethora of resources women entrepreneurs can turn to for help, but where is the proof that these resources actually help?
Recent research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on the state of female entrepreneurship came to one powerful conclusion: if female entrepreneurs received the same amount of support as their male counterparts, the global economy would experience a $5 trillion boost. This statistic simultaneously demonstrates the lack of support for female founders and the immense potential that women in business have.
Other statistics speak to the specific struggles women face and how small business resources can help. For example, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship found that “only 4 percent of the total dollar value of small business loans goes to women entrepreneurs.”
The divide is similarly stark in regard to bank loans: "Financial resources — especially access to capital — can be critical to the success of a small business, yet less than 20 percent of small business bank loans are made to women," Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, told American Express.
What also reveals the success of these small business resources are the various testimonies from leading entrepreneurs. For example, Melissa Rogne, the president and founder of Rejuv Medical Aesthetic Clinic, explained how using mentorship resources was critical to getting her business off the ground.
"In addition to funding, I've found mentoring from other women business owners to be critical," she said. "The first few years of business ownership can be very discouraging. You put in an incredible number of hours without any financial return. Having the support of others who have been there to assure you that you're making the right decisions and that there is a payoff in the future is invaluable."
Another strong proponent of the power of female-focused resources is co-Founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove, Heidi Zak, who told Quora how taking advantage of available support helped her business thrive. “I’ve been exploring the different resources out there for years now, and I wanted to share the ones I’ve found most helpful as a female founder,” said Zak.
The events and conferences that she found the most useful were actually the ones with both genders present. “I’d say you should spend at least 75% of your time at dual-gender events,” Zak said. The ones she recommends are TED/TedWomen, Shoptalk, and Fortune Tech.
Additionally, she spoke about the groups that she thinks other entrepreneurs should get involved in. Her two suggestions were All Raise, which she describes as “a great organization dedicated to connecting female founders with female mentors and VCs, and increasing the percentage of female partners in venture capital firms.”
She also lauded the Young Presidents’ Organization, a confidential way to meet with and talk to executives across a wide array of industries.
Today, Zak’s company has a valuation of over $750 million, so if you’re not going to listen to us, you should probably listen to her.
What Are the Best Business Resources for Women?
From networking events to co-working spaces to online courses, there’s a resource to help with almost any business problem you might face if you just know where to look. We have some recommendations for the best resources women in business can utilize, such as the following:
- Small Business Administration (SBA)
- Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
- National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)
- National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
- Female Entrepreneur Association
- Ellevate Network
A good place to start is with the government agencies dedicated specifically to support small businesses, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Both offer local assistance through in-person services like counseling or subject-focused events, as well as online educational tools. The SBA is also a certifying agency.
Additionally, the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is worth noting as a federal advisory committee focusing on the issues impacting women entrepreneurs.
Then there are a number of large female-focused organizations that not only offer small business resources for women like training and women-owned business certification, but help women create larger entrepreneurial communities.
For example, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The Female Entrepreneur Association, Ellevate Network, and the eWomenNetwork are other community-driven resources.
Finally, there are businesswomen resources for specific needs. For example, with over 300 local chapters across the country, SCORE is a premiere, free mentoring service for female entrepreneurs.
If you’re looking for small business grants for women, WomensNet is one of the few places offering grants for female entrepreneurs.