Economic Equality for Women Entrepreneurs: A Conversation in Celebration of Women’s Equality Day

Economic Equality for Women Entrepreneurs: A Conversation in Celebration of Women’s Equality Day

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Hi everyone, my name is Jennifer Klein and I'm the Co-chair and Executive Director of the White House Gender Policy Council. I'm so pleased to join you today on Women 's Equality Day, a day where we celebrate the progress that women have made through the years and also remind ourselves of the important work that remains to be done. I'm grateful to be joined by SBA administrator Isabella Guzman and Assistant Administrator of the Office of Women's Business Ownership Natalie Cofield, our senior designee, to the Gender Policy Council, both of whom are tirelessly fighting to ensure that women are at the table, especially women of color. When it comes time to support women-owned businesses, our administration is focused on prioritizing small businesses because they create good paying jobs and employ nearly half of the private sector workforce of America. They keep our nation competitive and they're an essential part of an equitable economic recovery and building back better for everyone, including women and especially women of color, who are so often the first fired and the last hired when a crisis hits.

Here at the Gender Policy Council, we are laser focused on fighting to ensure women are treated fairly in the economy and in the workforce, and that includes closing gender and racial wage and wealth gaps. As you all know, After owning a home business, equity is the largest source of wealth. If we want to ensure that families are strong and supported, we need to invest in women entrepreneurs. Women start businesses at faster rates than men, and they are growing share of our businesses, but they still raise much less capital and are more likely to rely on personal funds. For example, black women entrepreneurs have received significantly lower venture funding support on average, even as over 1.5 million

businesses, majority owned by black women, generate $45 billion in revenue. We're committed to ensuring women owned small businesses have the access to capital, technical assistance, mentorship and support that they need to ensure they can grow. Small businesses have been a priority for this administration since day one. The President has delivered more than $300 billion in relief to Main Street and is on track to fully forgive more than six million small business loans by year end. This administration is also committed to creating opportunities to grow and strengthen the small business economy and workforce, including by ensuring equitable access to capital and investing in infrastructure that supports small business growth. Our Build Back Better agenda will help level the playing field in several ways.

First, we'll make the tax code fairer while protecting millions of small businesses from tax increases. Second, we will increase access to contracting, capital, and technical assistance for small firms. Third, we'll give a tax cut to 3.9 million small business owners and that includes cutting taxes for small business owners with children through the child tax credit. Fourth, we'll cut taxes for small businesses for small business owners who buy coverage through

Finally, we will help small businesses retain workers and compete against large corporations through a national, federally funded paid leave program. Small businesses contribute to thriving communities and supporting opportunities for women, small business owners and small business owners of color helps ensure everyone benefits from economic and community growth. We're committed to ensuring current and aspiring women business owners have everything they need to grow their businesses, create and access good-paying jobs, and help build back better for all. Thank you so much and I look forward to working together. Hello my name is Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women's Business Ownership at the U.S. Small

Business Administration. In celebration of Women's Equality Day on August 26, which commemorates the 101 year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, the U.S. Small Business Administration is proud to host Economic Equality For Women Entrepreneurs: A Conversation and Celebration of Women's Equality Day 2021. As the number of women entrepreneurs in the community and across the country grows to unprecedented levels, SBA has resources for women small business owners to survive and thrive amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the SBA Women's Business Center network of 136 centers across the country.

Today's fireside chat will feature a conversation with the 27th Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Isabella Casillas Guzman, before we begin, I'd like to share more about the Office of Women 's Business Ownership at the U.S. Small Business Administration. OWBO's mission is to enable and empower women entrepreneurs through advocacy, outreach, education and support through the management and technical assistance provided by Women's Business Centers, WBCs.

Entrepreneurs, especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged, are offered comprehensive training and counseling on a vast array of topics in many languages to help them start and grow businesses. As mentioned previously, we are proud to have the largest center network in the history of the U.S. Small Business Administration, with 136 Women's Business Centers across the country and growing. The Office of Women 's Business Ownership is a 33 year old office that sits within U.S. Small

Business Administration, created in 1953, to continue to help small business owners and entrepreneurs pursue the American Dream. SBA is the only cabinet-level federal agency fully dedicated to small business, providing counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the nation's only go-to resource and voice for small business. And with that, I'm proud to welcome to the stage. The 27th Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration,

Isabella Casillas Guzman for this important fireside discussion. Thank you so much for joining us today, Administrator Guzman, for our conversation on economic equality for women entrepreneurs and celebration of women 's Equality Day. As we can get started, let's share with the viewers a little bit more about your personal background and the role that entrepreneurship has played in your personal and professional experiences. Well, it's my pleasure to be here.

Thank you so much for hosting this important conversation. I grew up in a small business family and my father owns several local veterinary hospitals, so going to work with him every day. During the summers or on weekends or after school, was really a treat for me and I really started to experience first hand what it's like to actually have that great customer experience and interaction. His clients loved him, including the little dogs and cats. Main streets are defined by these small businesses, these entrepreneurs. And I think

that's what was really formative for me, that experience and seeing how hard he worked balancing all the roles that he had to play as owner of this small business. But I've also been an entrepreneur myself with a print production studio and consulting businesses and have helped founders launch and build so I truly understand the grit and determination it takes to start and grow and sustain a small business. And my work with small businesses, I think really, truly culminated in policy and working as Deputy Chief of Staff and then eventually returning to serve in California as the Director of the Office of the Small Business Advocate gave me that view of a federal small business administration angle on small business development as well as at a state perspective in one of the largest economies in the world.

Building up from that, having this opportunity to now serve as Administrator of the SBA and really implement policy to help small businesses has been such a great experience. And I know that all those first hand experiences is what gives me such passion for the work of the SBA, which I share with you and the rest of the incredible civil servants at the SBA. And my goal really is to make our small businesses feel like the Giants that they are in our economy. We know they create two thirds of net new jobs and produce over 40% of the nation 's GDP, but they also define our main streets, our business centers, our industrial centers and propel our communities forward. They drive innovation and create the products and services that we depend on as well, as solving global problems in the process. So they are our economy and often face the most challenging path to success.

And so that's why it gives me passion to serve and try to provide them with the resources they they need. And while I did love being a small business owner and working with startups directly, particularly after my experience with my father, I do feel like the work that I do really supports our nation's entrepreneurs and really nurtures that indomitable entrepreneurial spirit that this country was really founded on. Absolutely. I really believe, personally, Administrator your unique background being both an entrepreneur, a small business owner, as well as an advocate and champion for small businesses is what has really allowed for the SBA under your leadership to implement a number of very innovative programs to support the smallest of small businesses across the country, that appreciation is is very much so noted.

With that being said, today's conversation is really in celebration of Women's Equality Day and so with that, what role does economic equity play for women in supporting their overall civic and political equity from your perspective? I believe strongly that when women have economic power, they are more empowered to have impact in their homes, in their communities and their countries, and globally. Economic strength is even a key indicator of health. It's essential. And so economic power goes beyond the access to economic resources or even beyond wealth creation. It's also at its core a woman 's ability to make those informed economic decisions for themselves, their children, their families and their communities. And I think that financial literacy and financial intelligence just is so essential for women.

But we know that political power is tied to economic power. It helps to build economic power by trying to eliminate gender discrimination and ensuring women earn equal pay or have access to capital and markets and networks which are needed by our women entrepreneurs to start, grow, and sustain. But by giving women the ability to decide what to do with the economic resources they build, that's that political power and so important and key to our growth. But unfortunately the U.S. does lag behind when

it comes to political power for women. We've seen ramifications of this throughout the pandemic, while millions of women had to drop out of the workforce and millions more were first to close their small businesses. And Vice President Kamala Harris recently said that the pandemic exposed the flaws and fissures in our economy, and I think that's so true.

We need more women, like Vice President Harris in positions of political leadership to really ensure that those flaws and fissures are fixed and women have that support that they need to achieve economic equality. So it's important that we see women take roles in policy making positions elected or appointed or civil service. And I hope the next generation of women are designing their paths right now to serve in government in some path. But we also need Congress to pass the Biden-Harris Administration 's Build Back Better agenda, which really takes important steps towards fixing some of these flaws and fissures by creating jobs, and cutting taxes, and lowering costs, including on healthcare and housing and childcare for working families, which of course have a particularly high impact on women.

But helping women achieve more economic power I think really helps all of us. And I know that the research has shown that when women have more income or more, say in economic decision making, that everyone benefits because women spend more of their earned income on their families 90% vs. men 30-40% So it's so critical that we continue to empower, especially our women entrepreneurs, and why our work at SBA is so tied to that economic strength. The Morgan Stanley study that I reference a lot shows that our economy is missing and having by having failed investments potential in women and minority owned businesses. The study by Morgan Stanley identified an opportunity gap of up to $4.4 trillion that

exists because of a lack of support for investment in women and minority entrepreneurs and that limits them from participating fully and entrepreneurship or achieving the same revenue and job creation levels as those businesses owned by white men. And that means that we're leaving $4.4 trillion on the table, which is a terrible market inefficiency and especially as studies show that investing in women and POC owned businesses yield strong results.

So even with these this data point and even with this known factor, we know that all of us could benefit from this growth. So with this we definitely need to eliminate those opportunity gaps and it's why I'm motivated to help make sure SBA is up to the challenge and to help support the changing face of entrepreneurship. I really love how you were able to amplify that. Economic equality really is a part of political equality and it's difficult to have a political equality conversation when women are not economically empowered. And I think, again, to your point Administrator, that's where the SBA comes in.

And so you mentioned a number of various significant statistics about the contributions of women entrepreneurs to our country. The contributions that have gone, as you mentioned, left on the table because we don't have, in some instances, the supports that are necessary to aid women entrepreneurs. What is the SBA doing right now to address the COVID-19 impact, which has been disproportionate on women and women entrepreneurs as well as historically marginalized and rural communities? I know you've been a big champion and I know that there's much to share. Well, SBA serves as the voice for America's 30 million small businesses and innovative startups to help ensure that all entrepreneurs have their tools and the support that they need to launch and grow and sustain their businesses and really achieve that growth and that wealth for their communities. And during the past six months we have revamped and launched new COVID relief programs. It's been impressive the amount of new programs, seven new programs and six adjustments that we've launched at scale to make sure that crucial emergency relief, which is still needed.

By millions of small businesses, especially women, owned small businesses to make those more accessible to entrepreneurs and we want to make sure that we're reaching the smallest of the small and women and people of color and veterans and others in rural and low income areas that have been historically underserved and we've done this on an unprecedented scale. And just to give you a sense of how much we've grown, we've gone from a $40 billion dollar portfolio to more than $1 trillion in relief, reaching more than 11 million small businesses and in terms of output, 90,000 loans on average before COVID to over $16 million in loans and grants, disbursed during the pandemic. We've delivered much needed assistance swiftly and equitably, including to our high impact industries, who were the first to close and likely last to fully reopen, and who are still at risk with the delta variant. And that includes our $28.6 billion dollar Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which did prioritize women and veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners. And we also, of course, launched our recently overhauled $16.2 billion

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which has helped more than 10,000 performing arts venues, museums and other important economic anchors in our communities, those who draw crowds to our main streets. We've also revamped our core relief programs for equity, which included of course, the Paycheck Protection Program, PPP, and COVID EIDL, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. In 2021, the Biden- Harris administration was really proud to deliver 96% of PPP loans to small businesses with twenty employees or less. Also a strong performance in rural and LMI communities, and we're now really focused on helping these smallest businesses gain forgiveness on those loans. We've launched a streamline online SBA direct forgiveness portal to help our PPP lending partners rush relief to the 6.5 million small business owners who took out loans of $150,000 or less, and so far broadly, the SBA has fully forgiven more than 5 million PPP loans, sending more than $470 billion of the $800 billion back into the economy.

And on this portal, we have nearly 1,300 lenders representing over 3.4 million eligible loans. We want to deliver against this promise of forgiveness to all eligible PPP applicants, and we're committed to delivering billions more through our COVID EIDL loan and grant programs. We've put out more than $3.8 million dollar loans on this platform, as well as $250 billion dollars in funds and the majority of the businesses are businesses with employees under 25. It's really critical relief to help businesses position themselves for success with patient, affordable capital.

And we've distributed over $4 billion companion grants through targeted and supplemental COVID EIDL. We are committed to delivering billions more in doing the necessary redesign and outreach to ensure equitable distribution. That's what SBA is all about. And, so, Administrator. you've mentioned quite a lot of financial support, either through loans or grants distributed to businesses across the country, and for the purpose of our conversation, women entrepreneurs across the nation. For those who may be asking or may have inquired, what is SBA doing to improve the equitable distribution of its grant and loan opportunities under your leadership? I've really asked my staff to be entrepreneurial and really pivot and adapt to meet this moment, just as we've asked our small businesses to do overtime, and that means being customer centric, knowing who our customer is and their situation. Technology forward, as so many

of us have had to adopt technology during COVID, and equitable. And I want to look at all our programs and ensure that we're meeting small businesses where they are instead of waiting for them to come to us. And for women in particular, this means growing our existing network of 136 Women 's Business Centers, particularly in our rural areas and historically marginalized communities. I'm proud that we've opened five Women's Business centers on HBCU campuses and know this will yield more economically empowered women in those communities highly impacted.

We're reaching beyond our established networks to reach the small businesses that don't know they can come to us for help with financial relief, that's what we learned during the pandemic that we needed to make sure that they could connect to capital to grow and skills to enter new markets and just connect to networks for advice on an ongoing basis, which is why the American Rescue Plan's Community Navigator Pilot Program, which will be launching next month, will help us reach women and underserved small businesses broadly to let them know that we're here to help and give them a trusted partner to collaborate with. It's a $100 million pilot program funded to support a network of trusted organizations, local governments, and community champions who can leverage their direct access to these small businesses and help them navigate resources at all stages of their growth. We know not everyone has that accountant or CPA on speed dial, but we want to give them those resources through our Community Navigator program. But it'll be a hub and spoke model to build bridges to businesses and make sure that everyone knows you can come to the SBA for help and especially if you haven't heard of us and you're going to learn more about us, just to know that you can trust the federal government to support your small business.

And so, Administrator recently in Tulsa, the President made an announcement about his intention to increase federal contracting spent with small disadvantaged businesses. And as you were mentioning, the resources at SBA provides and the resources that the agency is seeking to expand in communities across the country. There's a question here around, what initiatives and outreach efforts does SBA have in place To support women in contracting to ensure that women have an equitable seat at the federal contracting table? The contracting and access to markets in the federal marketplace, in particular is so important for small businesses, especially those from underserved communities who need to connect with the government marketplace, the Biden-Harris administration has been committed to lifting up all of our small businesses and spurring innovation. R&D and investments in our supply chains, which will of course support our economy in our global competitiveness and the bipartisan infrastructure deal will be a game changer for small businesses, truly providing some unprecedented investment in infrastructure, which we know are small businesses as well rely on for shipments of goods and broadband to get on e-commerce. President Biden 's day one executive order on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities included key instructions to all federal agencies to make federal contracting and procurement opportunities more available and remove those barriers faced by underserved individuals and communities.

And SBA has a key role to play here. In his June 2021 speech in Tulsa commemorating the Tulsa Race Massacre, President Biden announced a goal, an important goal, of increasing the share of contracts awarded to small disadvantaged businesses by 50% over five years, and the SBA is working to help us get there by expanding our 8(a), Women-Owned, Mentor-Protégé and HUBZone programs, and that'll all help ensure small disadvantaged businesses are contract ready. There's important investments in the Build Back Better agenda broadly to support contract readiness at SBA. Our Women-Owned Small Business

contracting program was created to provide a level playing field for women competing for federal contracts and the SBA does provide free WOSB certification, that Women- Owned Small Business certification. And since October 2020, over 2,600 firms have taken advantage of this in-house process, and I know that others have certified externally through our third party certifiers. So we really want to make sure that we enhance that certification process and help our small businesses get certified and get contract ready. Because in FY20, the federal government awarded $26.38 billion

dollars to women owned small businesses. That's 4.71% against the 5% statutory goal. So we need to do more, and we want to make sure we partner to do that. Recently President Biden also announced the Buy American initiative, which I think is such a key program for small businesses as well. It includes a commitment to buy from all of America and raise the domestic threshold.

So part of this effort, SBA, is actually launching a manufacturing hub initiative in office within the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development to help small manufacturers access federal contracts with financing and business development support from the SBA, which will be enhanced through the Build Back Better agenda. And I know that. this office is going to do great work to really help achieve the President's objectives around Made in America and supply chain resilience and racial equity as well.

And so this is a a great backdrop for a previous comment you made about reaching businesses anywhere and everywhere. And so we know during the COVID-19 pandemic that technology integration and using technology platforms was both important for the federal government as well as for small business owners, which brings us to this intersection, both around a platform that SBA has called Ascent the exciting new journey that the platform. has for government contracting, which you just spoke to. Can you share with us a little bit more, Administrator, about the launch of the Ascent platform and its alignment with your goals to support women entrepreneurs? I think it set as a great example of our efforts to meet small businesses where they are and more small businesses have adopted technology during the COVID pandemic. So we have relaunched its comprehensive online tool with more journeys, newly launched to help them get the resources they need to recover and to rebuild. Absolutely, and so we'll be sharing more information about the Ascent platform with you if you registered for today's program as well as we'd love to get you registered to learn more about forthcoming journeys, including the government contracting journey.

So with that being said, Administrator, as we near the conclusion of our conversation today around Women Equality Day, what are some of the new programs or initiatives that you're excited about launching that will support women entrepreneurs that are coming out of the SBA right now. I know you mentioned Community Navigators. Are there any other initiatives that are either part of Biden- Harris administration proposals Build Back Better or other programs and changes that are happening within the administration under your leadership. There are so many valuable programs at the SBA and I think I can't emphasize enough how much value that they can deliver to your business and so what's really key is it, business owners connect with the SBA and through our Women's Business Centers, connect to all the resources that we provide across capital and market access and network access. And in particular right now, in terms of capital access and relief during COVID, we have this Economic Injury Disaster Loan program which I referenced it has both loans, affordable, patient capital and grants to our small businesses. We continue to put out billions of dollars through that program and are continuing to make key improvements to better deliver against customer service and and make it a swift, efficient program. On market access,

of course, the contracting with the federal government is such a big opportunity and so that women owned small business certification is is really key and we want to continue to try to develop our women contractors and make sure that they can have a piece of the investments, the key investments that are going to be made, and climate resiliency and innovation and R&D, as well as the infrastructure broadly, all of our small business owners have such a key role to play in those investments. And then, of course, across our networks, I'm very excited about ways that we can better build bridges to communities and that will definitely help us as we work towards equity. So the Ascent platform as well as the Community Navigator Pilot network that we'll launch soon and the WBC network that's already strong and expanding, all of these are so critical it's important to connect with the team and so however, we can do that for you and provide content and information and connection to resources that we want to continue to build at the SBA. Great and in conclusion, and in your personal opinion, Administrator, what do you think is next for women in business? What's the next frontier for a woman entrepreneur? Growth growth, growth growth. I think that we need to fill those opportunity gaps and make sure that our women are building the companies of their dreams and achieving the job creation and revenue creation that they can. And you know, I know that approximately 90% of women owned businesses are sole proprietorships.

Women owned small businesses start small and too often stay small because they lack access to the capital or the markets or the networks that they need to grow. And so we need to help women connect to those opportunities and give them the capital to really leverage those opportunities. It's no secret that the venture capital world is still largely male dominated. A recent article in Harvard Business Review finds that this disparity between men and women and venture capital got worse during the pandemic.

In 2020 only 2.3% of funding went to women-lead startups, so this decrease is all the more concerning because we know it came on the heels of years of increases. And so we need to reverse that with women comprising 12% of the decision makers at venture capital firms we, we know we need to do more to bring women to the table and make sure that we're investing in our women entrepreneurs. The SBA powers the world's largest source of early stage public finance with SBIR, the Small Business Innovation Research Program. or it's additional program, the STTR, the technology transfer research grants, and so those are America's Seed Fund, because they invest in federal R&D funds in the best and brightest ideas which we know women are creating and they enable small businesses to really explore their technology further to make sure that they can launch and commercialize into the marketplace. So our SBIR program, does support women powered global successes such as 23 and Me, hundreds of impactful small firms like Design Interactive Incorporated, which is a woman owned small business that developed a patent patented algorithm compatible with wrist worn devices to provide real time stress measurements to improve PTSD stress and anxiety.

All these companies have such great potential and the SBA has so many wrap around services to support them, whether they're seeking investment or capital for financing. President Biden 's Build Back Better agenda is going to strengthen our innovation, our investment programs at the SBA, increasing support for these key programs that I hope everyone learns about now that they know about the SBA through PPP needs to find out more about all these programs, including our SBIC program, which is small business investment companies, the largest lower middle market fund in the world is powered at the SBA and we have more than $19 billion in private capital and $48 billion in SBA leverage and commitments to invest in our small businesses around the country. We need to diversify the SBIC managers and make sure that we're supporting strong equity across this program. You know these incredible programs have impact and with the Build Back Better agenda, commitments to focus on all of our entrepreneurs and including underserved businesses, we want to make sure that those are positioned to really draw success up for our women entrepreneurs and all of our small businesses. I know that. we're considering multiple new proposals to provide incentives for investment by SBICs in core industries and underserved communities and underserved small businesses and through micro and venture SBIC models.

This is traditionally a private equity model and this is an opportunity to really expand and do venture and help our startups. So I'm really excited about all the opportunities that lie ahead within the SBA programs, and I think importantly, we have the right team at the SBA and a lot of committed, mission driven individuals who want to make sure that our small businesses have the tools that they need to succeed and deliver against that growth for our women entrepreneurs. I love it. It's an honor to work with you, Administrator. Thank you so much for joining us for this important conversation on economic equality for women entrepreneurs.

Isabella Guzman, the 27th Administrator of U.S. Small Business Administration. Thank you. Thank you so much, Natalie. Thank you again for joining us for today's Economic Equality for Women Entrepreneurs: A Conversation in Celebration of Women Equality Day, featuring the 27th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Isabella Guzman. My name is Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator, leading the Office of Women's Business Ownership and our historic large national network of 136 Women's Business Centers across.

the country. The Office of Women's Business Ownership serves as a singular voice for women entrepreneurs within the federal government, seeking to provide access to contracting, access to capital, and access to connections needed by women entrepreneurs to succeed and scale. We were honored to be joined today by Jennifer Klein, Deputy Assistant to the President, Executive Director and Co-chair of the White House Gender Policy Council. We look forward to staying connected to you, and please, remain connected to the Small Business Administration by visiting us online at And for those who are watching and interested in learning more about the Ascent platform, please visit us on

Thank you so much.

2021-09-05 04:52

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