The coronavirus has devastated a large part of the economy, but women are especially hard-hit. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, data shows that 1.7 million women have been officially unemployed for more than 26 weeks. And “women’s jobs on nonfarm payrolls are still 5.27 million below February’s pre-COVID levels, compared with 4.57 million fewer nonfarm payroll jobs for men.” This has led to what many call a “Shesession.”
The story is not any better for women small business owners. Ingrid Vanderveldt, the founder of EBW and the SHEconomy Project, has advocated for women entrepreneurs for years and says, “according to recent SBA data, $26B or just over 5% of all federal contracts go to women-owned small businesses. Given that women own 39% of all privately-held firms, there is a significant discrepancy between allocated spend and opportunity.”
Since we’re both entrepreneurial advocates, I’ve known Ingrid for a long time. We recently caught up to talk about her newest effort to help women entrepreneurs, the SHEconomy Project
Explain the SHEconomy Project.
Ingrid Vanderveldt: To address the [federal contract issue], we launched the SHEconomy Project, a bi-partisan job creation and supplier diversity initiative that will create more Social, Health, and Economic impact for women-owned businesses. We are challenging governments, enterprises, and influencers worldwide to course correct the “She-cession” and build the SHEconomy.
A common challenge is those seeking to meet procurement goals can’t afford the risk and the management of volume that it takes to allocate so many contracts with smaller women-owned companies, so these procurement officers keep going back to the same companies.
EBW helps solve this challenge either by being the direct vendor or bringing in women-led businesses from our network, and we’re the subcontract to their prime. In short, we bring the logistics, legal, and infrastructure to the table to simplify the process.
Last year (2019), there was a lot of positive talk about how women were prospering in the workforce and as business owners. Now, not so much. Why do you think women have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and tightening economy?
Vanderveldt: With lockdowns, school, and childcare closures, women entrepreneurs have taken the brunt, some closing their doors indefinitely. But, we’ve also seen stories of women innovating, growing, and pivoting.
At EBW, we’ve had our fair share of triumphs and tribulations. We had a successful pivot and created EBW Cares Distributors to help get PPE into the hands of the people and places that needed it—including my brother—an ER doctor in Nashville who had to wear the same PPE for eight days while treating COVID-19 patients. We also experienced some growing pains as much of our business was focused on in-person networking, so we had to shift to an all-virtual community.
Does that alarm you?
Vanderveldt: Absolutely! But as we move forward in the post-COVID landscape, we’re optimistic that women-owned businesses are poised to play a significant role in the economic recovery—just as they did in the post-2008 economy. Between 2007 and 2012, minority- and women-owned businesses added 1.8 million jobs in the U.S. Comparatively, companies owned by white males lost 800,000 jobs, and firms owned equally by white men and women lost another 1.6 million jobs during this time.
I believe that to get our economy back on its feet, we must support women and diverse-owned companies. The public and private sectors must work together to help these businesses overcome the barriers to scale. That’s why we launched the SHEconomy Project.
If these organizations doubled their supplier diversity allocation—not spend, just their budget allocation—then we would get more than $1B of revenue back in the hands of women and diverse business owners because of the multiplier effect.
You have devoted so much of your professional life to helping women start and grow businesses. What are your goals?
Vanderveldt: I want women of all ages and stages in their entrepreneurial journey to know they’ve got the resources to help them scale.
The number-one thing that holds women entrepreneurs back is they have a higher risk awareness and therefore need a higher degree of certainty of success. I created EBW to help women reach their full potential and build businesses of sustained value to create the economic and social progress the world needs.
When you activate women, you activate the economy. Underrepresentation of women in business is a missed opportunity—both socially and economically. When we invest in women, their communities, states, and countries prosper, which generates a multiplier effect.
- Women put around 90% of their income back into their communities and families—they are among the world’s best economic and social bets.
- If women and men participate equally as entrepreneurs worldwide, the global GDP could see a rise of 3-5%, giving the global economy a boost of $2.5-5 trillion.
- Businesses founded by women produce higher revenue, over 2X more per dollar invested than companies founded by men.
What do you want us to do—what’s the call to action?
Vanderveldt: Our goals for the SHEconomy project are two-fold:
- Get commitment of governments and enterprises to increase their spending allocation with women-owned businesses.
- For those organizations that need assistance in identifying, vetting, and partnering with women-owned businesses to meet their allocation goals, EBW provides the insights, access, and roadmap to drive the work forward.
If you’re a women-owned business looking for procurement opportunities or an enterprise looking to meet your supplier diversity goals, you can learn more about the movement here.
What’s next for EBW?
Vanderveldt: We’re excited to launch the BETA version of our new EBW Education and Community in January 2021. Opt-in here to get information and updates.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.