and Women Entrepreneurs
Barriers to women entrepreneurs must
come down to keep pace with emerging and thriving economies,
Aida Alvarez, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration
(SBA) pointed out at the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) conference in Paris November 29, 2000.
As the leader of the U.S. delegation to this second OECD conference
on women in small and medium enterprises, Administrator Alvarez
underscored the importance of women-owned businesses for developing
and sustaining national economies.
"Barriers to loans, venture capital, and information must
be eliminated. Although women entrepreneurs face unique obstacles
in starting or growing a business, there are many more ways
to overcome these obstacles with today's new technology,"
said the Administrator. "Successful economies are directly
linked to the success of women entrepreneurs."
Under the theme "Realizing the Benefits of Globalization and
the Knowledge-based Economy," the 50-country conference explored
key issues and policies related to women's entrepreneurship
and the participation of women-owned businesses in international
At the conference, Administrator Alvarez announced the release
of a new study, "United States Case Study: Successful Public
and Private Sector Initiatives Fostering the Growth of Women's
Business Ownership" and planned to provide 500 copies of the
study to conference delegates. The study highlights programs
that have been successfully implemented by both government
agencies and private organizations. It showcases the ways
public-private partnership can help bridge the gap for women
in obtaining more access to capital, businesses counseling,
and other assistance.
The conference in Paris is a follow-up to the OECD's 35-country
April 1997 conference for women entrepreneurs that focused
on common issues and challenges facing women-owned businesses
and on identifying best practices around the world. The conference
put forth actions to be taken by government, business, financial
institutions, and associations. Public and private sector
initiatives to facilitate the growth and development of women-owned
businesses were also recommended.
The conference today reviews the developments that have taken
place since 1997 and assesses the extent to which the recommendations
have been implemented by public and private decision-makers
in member and non-member countries. It looks to the future
to determine what action is needed to ensure and improve the
growth and development of women-owned businesses.
The conference focused in particular on four main themes:
knowledge about female entrepreneurship and its role in
society and the economy.
knowledge about the financing of women-owned businesses
and removing obstacles in this area.
participation of women-owned businesses in international
trade and the global economy, in particular through the
use of new technologies and international networking.
an entrepreneurial culture for women through education,
management training and changes in societal values.
"Our purpose at this conference is to learn
and share best practices -what's working and what's not working
for women entrepreneurs around the world," said Administrator
Alvarez. "It's important that U.S. women stay plugged-in to
the growing world economy and that we prosper together."
According to the National Foundation of Women Business Owners,
women-owned businesses account for almost 40 percent of all
businesses in the U.S. There are 9.1 million women-owned businesses
in the U.S., employing over 27.5 million people and generating
over $3.6 trillion in sales.
While access to credit remains the number one obstacle to
U.S. women entrepreneurs starting and expanding their businesses
- the SBA has tripled the number of business loans to women
entrepreneurs in recent years. Since FY 1992, the SBA has
backed more than 83,000 loans amounting to more than $12 billion
for women-owned small businesses. In fiscal year 2000 alone,
the SBA backed almost 11,000 loans worth almost $2 billion
for women entrepreneurs.
The SBA also has contributed to the expansion of business
opportunities through its technical assistance programs. The
SBA also offers a network of 90 community-based women's business
centers providing business and technical assistance to women.
The centers provide long-term training, counseling, networking,
and mentoring to potential and existing entrepreneurs. The
SBA also offers the Online Women's Business Center at www.onlinewbc.gov.
The Web site is free and offers information on how to start
or grow a business. In addition to English, the Web site currently
is available in Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Icelandic.
It will soon also be available in French and Arabic.
"Creating the programs and policies that support women-owned
businesses and allowing them to flourish in a competitive
economic environment are the greatest challenges of the day,"
according to Alvarez.
Office of Women's Business Ownership provides dozens
of programs and services to promote and support small women-owned
businesses in the United States. If you already own your business
or are just starting out, be sure to take advantage of this
extensive, comprehensive service.