WASHINGTON (Globe Newswire) — U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced that the SBA intends to elevate its Office of Women’s Business Ownership to directly report to the Office of the Administrator.
Under Guzman, the SBA has expanded the number of Women’s Business Centers to a record 140 locations nationwide. These WBCs offer a network of extensive on-the-ground resources that include free to low-cost counseling, training, business development technical assistance and are dedicated to assisting women entrepreneurs to start, grow, and expand their enterprises.
“In 1972, there were a little over 400,000 women-owned businesses in the United States. Today, there are over 12 million proving that women entrepreneurs have become the fastest growing and one of the most impactful segments of the business community,” Guzman said. “While there has been historic progress in women’s entrepreneurship, significant disparities still persist, impacting women entrepreneurs’ access to resources and opportunity, especially in the face of the economic challenges posed by COVID. That is why I am proud to advance the mission of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership and reaffirm our commitment to America’s women-owned small businesses.”
Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York, said she believes “female entrepreneurs are integral to the American economy,” starting new businesses at high rates and employing millions.
“But COVID dealt a severe blow to women-owned businesses, and we can’t afford to leave them behind,” said Velasquez said, who chairs the House Small Business Committee. “I’m pleased to see the … administration prioritizing driving recovery for these small firms and addressing longstanding inequities for women entrepreneurs. I look forward to continuing to work … to eliminate obstacles for women in the small business sector and ensure they are in a position to thrive.”
As the fastest-growing entrepreneurial segment in the country, the high growth in entrepreneurship amongst multicultural women is particularly noteworthy. Data from the SBA’s Office of Advocacy found that between 2014 and 2016, the number of employer firms owned by women grew six percent, twice the growth rate of employer firms owned by men. This exponential growth was mainly driven by an increase in employer businesses owned by minority women, which grew 14 percent in that time.
“It is an honor to lead OWBO during this historic time of entrepreneurial growth for women, and when supporting them through recovery and ensuring that women small business owners are positioned for the future is so imperative. I look forward to working directly with Administrator Guzman to keep the concerns of women, especially those from underserved and disadvantaged communities, at the forefront of SBA’s executive leadership, initiatives, and programming, and I am grateful for her championship of this fast-growing and critical segment of American small businesses,” said Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, U.S. Small Business Administration.
This announcement comes after the release of the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality commissioned by the White House outlining objectives and priorities for obtaining equity for women.
“Women entrepreneurs are key to spurring innovation and supporting local economies and families across the country. That is why it’s so important that we continue to invest in women-owned businesses and give them the tools they need to succeed and grow. The elevation of this office sends a clear signal of this Administration’s commitment to ensure an equitable economic recovery, putting women at the forefront of our efforts to build back better for everyone. The White House Gender Policy Council looks forward to an ongoing strong partnership with the Office of Women’s Business Ownership in the months and years ahead,” said Jennifer Klein, Deputy Assistant to the President and Co-Chair and Executive Director of the WH Gender Policy Council.
Women entrepreneurs play a key role in our society and economy. Yet, they remain underrepresented in a myriad of key factors, including access to capital, contracts, and connections. Led by OWBO, the SBA will lead the way in assisting women-owned businesses in leveraging government resources – including recently announced opportunities through an equitable federal procurement strategy, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Build Back Better Act – to level the playing field.
Currently, the OWBO is an organizational component of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development. The SBA emphasizes that the reorganization is still in the planning stages and likely will not be finalized until the close of fiscal year 2022; however, Ms. Madeira Cofield will begin reporting to Administrator Guzman effective immediately. As legislated by Congress, Ms. Madeira Cofield’s title will remain unchanged.