COMMENTARY: SBA helps level playing field for women-owned business

Each March, SBA joins the rest of the nation in celebrating National Women’s History Month by commemorating the historic contributions of women to our country and to our economy. This is also a great time to point out the administration’s commitment to help women compete as equals in the small business world.

Women entrepreneurs have overcome historic inequities in a brief period of time, and as a woman business owner, I can tell you that we don’t want special treatment — we want equal treatment.

SBA Administrator Linda McMahon has made it clear that women need better access to mentors, advisers and networking. And everybody needs capital. You can’t run a business without it. It was only thirty years ago that the Women’s Business Ownership Act eliminated laws requiring male co-signers on women’s business loans. The Women’s Business Center Program and the National Women’s Business Council were created to encourage women to overcome barriers and achieve success.

This administration’s commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs is clear. In his first 100 days, the president signed two executive orders supporting women in business: the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, which encourages entrepreneurial programs that recruit and support women, and the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers and Innovators and Explorers Act, which directs NASA to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to pursue careers in aerospace.

We’re making progress, but we’re not there yet. Female entrepreneurs make up a growing share of U.S. small business owners; they own 9.9M companies in the U.S., employ more than 8 million people, and provide $264 billion in wages. Yet, despite these numbers and while women make up over 50 percent of the US population, only 29 percent are business owners.

We’re doing our part here at SBA with the funding of more than 100 Women’s Business Centers across the nation; programs such as federal contracting set-asides for women-owned businesses; initiatives such as the InnovateHER Women’s Business Challenge, and business loans for female entrepreneurs.

SBA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia, does a little better than the national average with the largest concentrations of women-owned enterprises.

The work we do on a local level in our district offices for women entrepreneurs cannot be overlooked or understated.

I am proud to be part of all that SBA does to promote women entrepreneurs. With SBA’s help, women-owned firms contributed more than $1.7 trillion in sales to the U.S. economy in 2017. It is my goal to ensure women remain a vital part of our nation’s economic success. Start or grow your Woman-Owned small business with a visit to your nearest Women’s Business Center (https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/wbc )

EDITOR’S NOTE: Michelle Christian is the Small Business Administration Mid-Atlantic regional administrator.

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