Beyond the Bucks

A new study by Babson's Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership and Bank of America Private Bank uncovers gender-based impediments experienced by women entrepreneurs, outside of venture funding.

More women are starting businesses today than ever before. In fact, the number of women-owned businesses grew 58% between 2007 and 2018 - nearly five times faster than the national average1 - and the trend continues. Additionally, in 2018 the women-owned businesses that had over $1 million in revenue increased revenues 46% over the past 11 years in comparison to 12% growth for all U.S. businesses. These growth rates are reasons to celebrate the many new women-led businesses that exist today. However, impediments to scaling businesses still remain.

To better understand those obstacles, a research project was launched by Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) and Bank of America Private Bank. Ultimately, findings revealed that women who have built successful companies had to navigate significant gender-based obstacles. In doing so, these women created alternate paths to success for themselves, and for other determined female entrepreneurs.

Three key themes emerged relating to the challenges women entrepreneurs faced when growing their businesses:

  1. Market misperceptions – Women entrepreneurs’ competency and market knowledge is routinely disregarded, including market opportunities they identify.
  2. Network exclusion – Women entrepreneurs often experience limited, gender-based, access to established social and business networks, creating less access to knowledgeable mentors and capital expansion.
  3. Managing expansion while underfunded – Barriers to startup and growth capital create new, ongoing challenges, including constraints on funding for recruitment, access to new markets, and overall expansion.

Through interviews, Beyond the Bucks lead author and Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Lakshmi Balachandra, also uncovered novel strategies that these entrepreneurs developed and utilized in order to be successful. Click the links below to read the report and learn more about them.

[1] The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: Summary of Key Trends, American Express, 2019

Select Quotes from Participants

Quote Card Icon - small

”There's still very much the boys’ network, especially in my marketplace. We’re all there at the trade show, and we go out afterwards. But because I’m often the only woman there, I have just one drink and then go back to the hotel room. I prefer to use the time to call my kids, get caught up on my emails, and get ready for the next day.” 

– Nancy Cwynar, CEO, Action Health


Quote Card Icon - Turquoise

“Given my business was in baby products and I am a mother of four, I felt it gave me credibility, which was a positive, but only within the customer’s eyes. Business people didn’t, and still don’t, take me seriously a lot of the time, despite the fact that I worked hard – I built a business from scratch that now generates over $100 million in annual revenue and ended up a very successful entrepreneur.”

- Raegan Moya-Jones, Co-Founder & Former CEO, Aden & Anais

Quote Card Icon - Yellow

“I didn’t think age would be an issue because I've been around young men that have started businesses, and I've never really heard anybody question, ‘Oh, they're too young to know what they're doing’. For me, it seemed that age was more of an issue because I’m a woman. It was a double whammy of, ‘Okay, she's female, plus she's young so she’s not going to be aggressive.’”

- Darlene Panzitta, President & Founder, DSP Clinical Research

Quote Card Icon - small

"We are women running a female-focused, female-at-its-core, company. In the beginning some people thought that it was kind of fluffy and weren't sure if it was just a fun side project, as opposed the real, viable, sustainable, profitable business it is." 

– Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Her Campus Media

Quote Card Icon - Green

“The women tended to congregate together, as women often do at social events. But as a business woman, you have to push yourself to talk to the men, and not just hang out with the other girls.” 

- Mashell Carissimi, Founder & CEO, JMC Electrical Contractor

The CWEL offers events and opportunities for a variety of Babson stakeholders. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay in touch and learn more about events and content being created for women entrepreneurial leaders.