My View: It’s not about getting more women to start businesses

Currently featured on the Phoenix Business Journal

More women are starting and succeeding as U.S. small-business owners and entrepreneurs than men, yet average annual revenues of women-owned businesses are lower than those of their male counterparts.

The 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report estimated women started 1,200 new businesses every day during the past year, up from an average of 740 a day the year prior. Four out of 10 new firms are now started by women.

In Arizona, from 2007 to 2012, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 44,370, or 32.1 percent, to 182,425, according to the National Women’s Business Council.

Nationally, there are 23 states (and the District of Columbia) where post-recession, woman-owned firm growth has not caught up to pre-recession numbers. This includes six states where post-recession growth of women-owned firms still is less than half of what it was in the 2002-07 period. Arizona is among those six.

Interestingly, the real issue is not getting more women to start business, but providing support to women who already are in business to enable them to grow their enterprises to the next level. The report recommends policy and programmatic support target firms with five to nine employees, and those aiming at, but just shy of the million-dollar mark.

The McKinsey Institute projects if women business owners achieved the same success as their male counterparts, that would mean $3.2 trillion in revenue and employ 16 million people.

So, how do we help these women-owned firms grow their enterprises? Several major metropolitan areas, including the Valley, have taken steps to make that happen.

In Boston, a new city initiative called Women Entrepreneurs Boston provides skills, technical assistance and networking that women need to launch and grow their business. The Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College in New York combines the college’s resources with those of the venture community at Columbia University to provide education and training needed by today’s underrepresented and highly undercapitalized women entrepreneurs.

In 2015, Arizona Women’s Education and Employment in cooperation with the U.S. Small Business Administration, launched Maricopa County’s only women’s business center to develop, support and expand women-owned businesses for entrepreneurs and for women facing economic or other barriers to starting a business.

Since opening, AWEE has trained and counseled 3,021 clients. Our entrepreneurs have started 75 small businesses that generated $958,268 in revenue in just under two years. We provided guidance and assistance in securing $1.3 million in capital formation funding.

We are proud of those numbers, but when you consider the big-picture potential of the growth possibilities, they represent only a very small percentage of what we hope — and expect — to see in the years ahead.


Alicia Marseille is program director of the AWEE’s Entrepreneur Center. She can be reached at

My View: It’s not about getting more women to start businesses