Candace Waterman, President & CEO, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we observe the incredible contribution of women to American society – in business, academics, the arts, technology, medicine, and so much more. In particular, we acknowledge the substantial role women have played throughout history to mold our economy, industry, and America’s globally recognized spirit of entrepreneurship.
In 1972, only an estimated four percent of total businesses were owned by women. Now, women-owned businesses account for 39 percent of all businesses and employ nearly nine million people. In 2019 alone, women-led businesses accumulated $1.8 trillion in receipts, and women now run 41 of the Fortune 500 companies.
From 2014 to 2016 alone, the number of firms owned by women grew by six percent – twice the growth rate of employer firms owned by men. A sizable portion of this growth is the rise in minority women-owned businesses, which has grown 14 percent. This positive momentum is remarkable and showcases the resolve with which women have forged their way into modern American business.
My organization, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), is the leading national nonpartisan organization on Capitol Hill serving as the voice for the over 12.9 million women-owned businesses in the United States. In our 21st year, we are proud of what we have accomplished, working in a bipartisan manner with lawmakers to impact and influence policy that provides gender equality, economic equity, procurement inclusion, and access to the global marketplace.
While women have made significant gains, there is still much work to be done, both as an organization and a country, to advance the role of women in business.
In addition to adding more women board members, increasing leadership opportunities, and removing barriers to business advancement, we can further support women entrepreneurs and business leaders by ensuring American innovation remains the strongest in the world.
When we foster technological innovation, women entrepreneurs leverage those tools to increase opportunities by starting and expanding businesses, developing a brand, reaching new audiences, and boosting efficiencies that result in greater growth and employment. This investment in innovation not only supports women working in the tech sector but has a broader positive impact on the more than one million small businesses owned by women. When the American tech sector flourishes, women from all walks of life reap the countless benefits that technology provides.
Over the last 100 years, women have driven progress, propelling forward some of our nation’s best achievements and innovative accomplishments. As we look to the future, especially during this fragile time of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, our lawmakers must continue to support policies that help our nation maintain its technological edge and economic revitalization. If we want to empower the next generation of women innovators in America, we must continue to safeguard and strengthen the same innovative edge that enabled countless women before us to pave the way for our present prosperity.
Candace Waterman is the president and CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).