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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser: ‘Bet on cities’ coming out of the pandemic

October 15, 2021, 5:00 PM UTC

Washington, D.C., has been the site of multiple tumultuous events in the past year and a half, between a post-election insurrection on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol and the economic fallout of the pandemic. D.C.’s mayor, Muriel Bowser (D), has dealt with it all as a working mother. But as the country strives to come out of the pandemic, she’s also hopeful D.C. will be the site of something more positive: opportunity for business owners.

“A lot of people have spent COVID thinking about how they want to spend their time and their professional energy, and I think a lot of people are going to start businesses,” Bowser said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Indeed, across the country, the pandemic has created a spurt of entrepreneurship. New business applications were up nearly 70% year over year in May 2021 from mid-2020, per U.S. Census Bureau data—though those rates have since dropped over the past four months. Business applications in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, were up over 19% from 2019 to 2020, per bureau data.

Bowser is particularly optimistic about female founders, even as job losses hit women harder during the pandemic. “It has been a difficult year for female workers and leaders, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs,” she said. “And we know that women will lead in that regard as well.”

Bowser pointed out “how well women are doing in tech, starting in tech, and attracting investment in D.C.” Indeed, the district ranked among the best cities for women in tech in recent years, including in a recent report by SmartAsset, a personal finance site.

“Bet on cities,” Bowser added, “because people are still moving there, and that’s where talent is, and that’s where you can grow your businesses.”

There are still plenty of issues D.C. and Bowser are grappling with, to be sure, including D.C.’s continued fight for statehood and the city’s recovery from the pandemic. Bowser’s own priorities include economic prosperity and fairness: “How do we make it more equitable, how do we start more women-owned businesses, how do we train more D.C. residents for good-paying D.C. jobs that will allow people to stay and thrive here?”

“How we reshape work and make sure that we continue to attract the best of the best is the challenge for the years ahead,” Bowser said.

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