Women are a force to be reckoned with in American business, owning more than 12.2 million businesses across the country, employing over 14.8 million people and generating more than $2.4 trillion in sales, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. About 58% of those women entrepreneurs predict their revenues increasing in the next fiscal year, up from 44% in 2017, according to a new study by Bank of America. This signals a rise in the optimism of women-owned businesses.
The study found that 56% of women with their own businesses plan to grow in the next five years and 21% plan to hire more workers in the coming year. Not only are these women optimistic about their own businesses, but about the economy as a whole. About 49% expect their local economy to improve and 48% expect the national economy to improve in the next year. Both of these percentages are up by double digits since 2016.
One of the trends Bank of America’s study found was that women are leading the charge among small businesses in the shift to digital payments. Women (33%) are currently 7% more likely than men (26%) to use mobile devices for financial transactions concerning their businesses. And women’s leadership doesn’t stop there. About 42% of the women surveyed are also currently using or exploring the use of one advanced technology like 3-D printing or virtual reality in their businesses. And three-fourths of women entrepreneurs believe that continued innovation is important to their success.
Though they are feeling positive heading into 2019, 61% of women business owners recognize that there are barriers to entry that male entrepreneurs do not face when starting their ventures and 68% say it is harder for women than men to gain access to capital. Some of the women surveyed said that gender-blind financing (42%), increased education and training (24%), and government loan programs (16%) could help address the disparity among genders in opportunities to start businesses.
About 84% of these women say there has been an improvement in access to capital over the past decade, though, and 75% believe that women have gained more financial-decision making power since the late ’90s, too, according to Merrill Edge Report’s Spotlight on Women.
With this increased autonomy, women are investing more, but there is still a confidence gap between them and men. Nearly half of women reported making money through investments this year, but that is 20% lower than the percentage of men who did, according to the Merrill Edge Report. On top of that, women are far less likely to trust their instincts when investing (56%) than in donating to charities (83%), or having children (91%).
When women invest, they are increasingly choosing companies that prioritize gender parity, diversity and sustainability. More than 90% of women factor in social impact in the businesses in which they choose to invest after they get over the hurdle of profitability, said Anna Colton, managing director and division executive for the Northeast consumer division at Bank of America.
“Everybody’s concerned that companies are profitable,” she said. “But women are also factoring in considerations around companies that are investing in and promoting issues close to them…I’m really encouraged by that. Women are having an impact on these social issues by virtue of them taking control of their financial decisions.”