How to put more women on the entrepreneurial fast-track

Better access to capital is a top concern for female entrepreneurs.

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The gap in labor force participation between American men and women has narrowed considerably over the last few decades. Women have entered the labor force en masse, and men have experienced steady declines. At the same time, women have made remarkable educational gains. Women now consistently outpace men in terms of college enrollment and receive 50 percent more master’s degrees than men do. Among the youngest workers, those ages 18 to 32, women are now far more likely to have bachelor’s degrees than men.

Women, however, continue to be underrepresented in one crucial area: entrepreneurship, especially “high-growth” entrepreneurship.

Overall, women-owned businesses account for about one-third of all types of businesses in the United States. Among employer firms, however, women-owned businesses are only about 16 percent of the total, and their share of revenues and employees are in the single digits. Among high-growth firms, moreover, women usually account for less than 10 percent of founders in any given sample.

Given slowing rates of business creation and long-term pessimism about growth in the United States, it makes little sense that half of our population – and more than half of our educated population – isn’t fully participating in the engine of growth and innovation. Yet is also seems clear that the future of American entrepreneurship and growth is in the hands of women.

To take advantage of this opportunity, we must identify why fewer women are represented among high-growth companies and the investors who back them. What, if anything, is different among women entrepreneurs, and what does this tell us about public policy and private programs?

Much of the answer, it seems, is financing.

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