Entrepreneurs like Hattie Austin Moseley, Elizabeth Arden and Ruth Fertel helped blaze a trail for women in business. And now, the National Women's History Museum, in partnership with Microsoft, celebrates these successful women and others with a new online exhibit called From Ideas to Independence: A Century of Entrepreneurial Women.
As the exhibit demonstrates, the business world didn't always welcome women who took control over their own financial destinies, let alone grabbed the reins of a company.
Cindy Bates, vice president of Microsoft's U.S. Small and Midsized Business group, told Small Business Computing that not too long ago in some states, banks wouldn't give a woman seeking financing for her business the time of day -- that is, unless she walked in hanging off the arm of a man.
"It wasn't until 1988 that a woman didn't have to have a male relative sign her business loan," reminded Bates.
When it comes to starting a business today, women are not only standing toe-to-toe with their male counterparts, in some ways they're surpassing them.
"Over the last decade, roughly, the number of women-owned businesses has grown 44 percent, which is twice the rate of male-owned businesses," said Bates. Female entrepreneurs are also a powerful economic force. "Women-owned businesses in the U.S. drive more than a trillion dollars in revenue, and they employ 8 million people," she said.
Women Entrepreneurs Tackle Technology
Having largely prevailed against archaic attitudes, women today are increasingly turning to technology such as cloud computing -- Microsoft's own Office 365 product is an example -- to launch their businesses. Bates, whose team's mission is to help small and midsized businesses (SMBs) "start, grow and thrive using technology," shared some interesting statistics on the state of female entrepreneurship and how technology enables women to pursue their passions and profit from them.
Microsoft commissioned a survey (PDF) of "new" (in business five or fewer years) and "established" (in business six or more years) female entrepreneurs. Interestingly, 80 percent of new entrepreneurs said that technology was critical to starting a new business while 53 percent of the established camp said the same.
As an example of how fast the technology landscape has changed, 71 percent of new entrepreneurs said that they believe that technology in its current state cuts the time it takes to get a business up and running while 56 percent of established entrepreneurs felt the same way. Turn back the clock 10 years to the days before iPads and widespread cloud services, and those figures dip to 41 percent and 36 percent respectively.
Sixty-six percent of new entrepreneurs polled said that they rely on their laptops to do business on a daily basis, while 54 percent rely on their smartphones. Twenty-one percent of new entrepreneurs and just 11 percent of established players use tablets.
A similar divide exists with the use of landlines, only in reverse. Seventy-five percent of established entrepreneurs set up a landline when starting their businesses compared to 46 percent of new business owners.
Women Entrepreneurs Don’t Care What Marissa Thinks
Technology is also redefining the concept of the workplace, and no matter what Yahoo's Marissa Mayer says about working remotely, women entrepreneurs beg to differ.
Overall, 40 percent of women entrepreneurs said that they work remotely to enjoy a better/work life balance. Thirty-six percent of new entrepreneurs said that they work remotely all the time, while only 23 percent of established entrepreneurs did the same.
In general, the powerful combo of social progress and technological advancement has cleared the way for more businesses with women at the helm.
Today, 70 percent of new female entrepreneurs believe that it is easier to start a business than ever before. Even a majority of seasoned entrepreneurs, 61 percent in fact, feel the same.
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