Women’s business ownership and women’s entrepreneurship through the lens of U.S. federal policies

Abstract

Although the USA is at the forefront of nations promoting women’s business ownership and entrepreneurship, the role of U.S. federal policies in supporting these goals remains unexamined. This study examines six decades (1951–2011) of U.S. Federal Statutes to answer the research question—how do U.S. federal policies support women’s business ownership and women’s entrepreneurship? The study methodology includes quantitative and qualitative analysis of federal laws and resolutions. The quantitative analysis suggests that in 1988, with the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act, the USA began to intensify policy interest in this area. What began as policy experimentation in 1988 gradually became institutionalized. The qualitative analysis suggests that in terms of broad policy intent and intended outcomes not much has changed since 1988. Given this sobering finding, we discuss important implications and future research questions to motivate stronger research on how government can better support women business owners and entrepreneurs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Public laws are enacted bills and joint resolutions that are assigned a public law number by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) (Congress.gov 2017). Proclamations “... are aimed at those outside of the government. Proclamations can grant presidential pardons, commemorate or celebrate an occasion or group, call attention to events, or make statements of policy” (Yale University Library 2017).

  2. 2.

    The act defined a small business “owned and controlled by women” as a small business that is at least 51% owned by women and managed by these women (Government Printing Office 1990, p. 3094).

  3. 3.

    Our assumption was based on prior research on challenges faced by women business owners and women entrepreneurs (e.g., Mijid 2014 and Mijid 2015).

  4. 4.

    Statistics on women’s business ownership trends are not readily available. We therefore relied on ownership rates reported by Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Association of Women Business Owners, and archived media coverage. These sources confirm a (sometimes small but) steady increase in the percentage of women business owners—< 5% in 1972, 7.1% in 1977, 21.7% in 1982, 30% in 1987, 34.1% in 1992, 26.5% in 1997, 29% in 2002, 29.6% in 2007, and 36% in 2012 (Office of Advocacy. U.S. Small Business Administration 2011; U.S. Department of Commerce. Economics and Statistics Administration 2010). Please note that data for 2002, 2007, and 2012 estimates are from the Survey of Business Owners (SBO) survey. Data for 1982, 1987, 1992, and 1997 estimates are from the Survey of Women-Owned Business Enterprises (SWOBE) survey, but estimates between 1992 and 1997 are not comparable because there were major changes to the 1997 survey (U.S. Department of Commerce. Economics and Statistics Administration. 2010, p. 8).

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Candida Brush, Matthew Rutherford, Siri Terjesen, and the journal's anonymous reviewers for providing thoughful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. An earlier version received the 2018 USASBE Annual Conference John Jack Award for overall best paper dealing with entrepreneurship by women or minorities or under conditions of adversity.

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Correspondence to Sheela Pandey.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 5 Aggregate occurrences for U.S. federal statutes grouped by year and federal policies (N > 10 is represented in bold font)

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Pandey, S., Amezcua, A.S. Women’s business ownership and women’s entrepreneurship through the lens of U.S. federal policies. Small Bus Econ 54, 1123–1152 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-0122-5

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Keywords

  • Women’s business ownership
  • Women’s entrepreneurship
  • U.S. federal policies
  • Content analysis
  • Policy typologies

JEL classifications

  • J18
  • L26
  • M13