Advocacy Participates in Panel on Women-Owned Businesses

By Economists Michael McManus and Miriam Segal

Throughout March’s National Women’s History Month, agencies across the government held events celebrating the history and work of American women. The Office of Advocacy participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” Research Economist Miriam Segal and Regulatory Economist Michael McManus joined Joan Harrigan-Farrelly from the Department of Labor to discuss women business leaders and research on women entrepreneurs.

Segal focused on challenges that women business owners face, particularly with regards to access to capital, and discussed how innovations in financial services such as peer-to-peer lending and equity crowdfunding can potentially reduce these challenges. All else equal, women-owned businesses are less likely to have external sources of funding than their male-owned counterparts—and when they do, it tends to be in smaller dollar amounts. Suggested explanations include the differences in the compositions of women’s social networks. [1]

Peer-to-peer lending and equity-based crowdfunding have the potential to fill women business owners’ capital needs by facilitating connections with potential funders.  Research results vary, with some studies showing no effects of a borrower’s gender on their chance of receiving funds in Germany, while others, using United States data, have found that their funders favored women. [2] One study showed that lenders favor borrowers of the same gender due to perceived social proximity.[3] However, most of the existing research focuses on personal borrowing or microfinancing in developing countries. We do not have the data to know whether women raising capital as business owners in the U.S. receive the same equal or favorable treatment described above.

McManus spoke about his research on business demographics and on his upcoming research project on women-owned businesses. He highlighted the continued role of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. economy, and the size of their impact. The 9.8 million women-owned businesses provide $264 billion in payroll to more than 8.4 million U.S. workers. Minority communities also have very high rates of women business ownership, with almost 60 percent of all Black/African-American businesses being women-owned. [4]

However, McManus noted that data from the Census shows opportunities for growth. Only 36 percent of all businesses are women-owned. They also have smaller revenue and employ fewer individuals than male-owned businesses, on average. He presented some initial research from his upcoming report that looked at how the industries women-owned businesses are in and some key business characteristics could be affecting revenue and employment. The audience was interested in the upcoming research product, and asked questions regarding the important role of non-employer women-owned businesses.

The audience was eager to learn more about the challenges that women business owners face. Advocacy looks forward to continuing presentations on its research on minority- and women-owned businesses. McManus’ research on women-owned businesses is slated to publish within the next few months.


Michael McManus is a Regulatory Economist and can be reached at


[1] Coleman, S., & Robb, A. (2014). Access to Capital by High-Growth Women-Owned Businesses. National Women’s Business Council. Retrieved from to Capital by High Growth Women-Owned Businesses (Robb) – Final Draft.pdf

[2] In order of appearance:

Barasinska, N., & Schafer, D. (2014). Is Crowdfunding Different? Evidence on the Relation between Gender and Funding Success from a German Peer-to-Peer Lending Platform? German Economic Review. 15(4), 436-452.

Pope, D., & Sydnor, J. (2009). What’s in a Picture? Evidence of Discrimination from The Journal of Human Resources, 46(1), 53-92. Retrieved from

Duarte, J., Siegel, S., & Young, Lance. (2012).Trust and Credit. The Review of Financial Studies, 24(8), 2455-2484. Retrieved from

[3]  Galak, J., Small, D., & Stephen, A. (2011). Microfinance Decision Making: A Field Study of Prosocial Lending. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(SPL), S130-S137.

[4]  U.S. Census Bureau via American FactFinder, 2012 Survey of Business Owners

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