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Why women-owned businesses anticipate a tougher recovery ahead than their male-owned counterparts

August 26, 2020, 7:30 PM UTC
Credit: Alistair Berg/Getty Images
Alistair Berg—Getty Images

Women business owners report a more difficult path ahead than their male peers as the economy attempts to recover from the coronavirus crisis over the next year, according to a new report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber surveyed 500 business owners in July, most of whom operate small businesses with fewer than four employees. In the first quarter of this year—before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.—male and female business owners both said they expected revenue to rise in 2021. But the past several months of the pandemic have created a gap in expectations. Last month, the share of male business owners who said they were optimistic about future revenue growth remained steady at 57%, while the percentage of female business owners who expect to bring in more revenue next year dropped by 14 points to 49%.

Revenue isn’t the only statistic where male and female business owners’ outlooks now differ. Men anticipate hiring more staffers, with 36% saying they expect to do so in the coming year, a six-point increase from the first quarter of this year. Female business owners’ expectations for hiring, meanwhile, dropped seven points from the first quarter, with just 24% now saying they expect to hire over the next year.

Men and women also differed in their overall characterization of their businesses’ health. Since they were surveyed earlier this year, the portion of male business owners who described their businesses’ health as “good” has dropped five points. Women’s dropped by a more significant 13 points from 60% to 47%.

This relative optimism seems to allow male business owners to look toward the future of their companies. Over the past several months, the share of men who own small businesses who have decided to develop investment plans increased by 11 points. Women saw no such change.

The Chamber of Commerce’s survey provides perspective on how the coronavirus has affected small business owners across the country. The survey didn’t ask business owners about their use of the Paycheck Protection Program loans intended to help small businesses through the crisis. The PPP loan program, however, has faced discrepancies in how loans were allocated across race and gender.