We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…or Have We?

Women have been a hot topic in the 2012 presidential campaign. UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA@UNC recently put together a cool infographic that pulls together a lot of data about women in corporations, small businesses and different industries. Some of the information might be familiar to you; some might be new, but overall, it paints an encouraging picture of how far women in business have come…and how far we still have to go.

women at work infographic

First, the good news. Women are starting businesses at 1.5 times the national average. This trend has been growing for a while; between 2002 and 2007, the number of women who own businesses increased by 20.1 percent, representing about 28 percent of all businesses. Nor are women stuck in traditionally “female” fields: Their industries vary widely, with the greatest representation in real estate, administrative and support, waste management and remediation, professional and technical services, retail, healthcare and other services.

Then there’s the “Hmm, well, OK” news. When it comes to the corporate world, 40 percent of large public companies have no women on their boards of directors. However, among S&P 500 companies ranked in the top 10 by Governance Metrics International, the figure is more promising; about 22 percent of their board members are women. In the U.S., about 16 percent of companies have women board members. These numbers are better than they used to be, but there’s certainly room for improvement.

Of course, one reason women start businesses is precisely to get out of the corporate world. But when they do, they’re still not dealing with a level playing field. Only 3 to 5 percent of women-owned businesses get venture capital; just 10 percent of venture-funded startups are women-owned. About 10 percent of VCs are women, and 13 percent angel investors are women.

Now there’s the downright bad news. When it comes to technology—the hottest area for new startups and the most promising industry for business growth—women are woefully behind. Fewer than 5 percent of tech startups are women-owned, and even among employees, only 25 percent of the tech industry is female. Businesses owned by men get 95 percent of the VC money.

There’s no good reason for this. In fact, there are good reasons women should be getting more VC funding—not less. When women do get VC, their revenues average 12 percent higher than those of VC-backed companies owned by men. And when companies have more equal gender representation in their leadership and management, their IPOs get 30 percent better results.

What needs to change? Well, some things are already changing. Women now earn 68 percent more bachelor’s degrees than men and earn one-third of all MBAs.

But there needs to be more change if women are to gain more success, more funding and more representation, particularly in the technology industry. What can we as women—and men—do to help?

Be a role model. Mentor a school-age, teenage or young woman entrepreneur; take a leadership role in organizations for youth entrepreneurship like Junior Achievement; talk to girls and young women you know about the joys of being your own boss.

Put your money where your mouth is. Consider investing in a woman-owned startup or existing business as a private or angel investor, or donating time to help a woman-owned company grow. Pipeline Fellowship is one organization working to encourage and train women angels.

Speak up. When you hear people being condescending about women entrepreneurs, spreading stereotypes or otherwise putting us down, say something. Comment on offensive blog posts; correct misinformation.

Work together. Get involved with networking groups where you can support and learn from other women in business. Check out Women in Technology International, for example. There’s strength in numbers.

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.