Study Shows Women Entrepreneurs Are Overcoming Funding, Network Exclusion and Market Misperceptions Challenges to Achieve Business Growth

October 17, 2019 at 9:00 AM Eastern

Bank of America and Babson College today announced the findings of a new study of women entrepreneurs and how they overcome challenges to business growth beyond venture funding. The study, part of a larger research collaboration between Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) and Bank of America Private Bank, found that women who have built successful companies had to navigate significant gender-based obstacles and, in doing so, created alternate paths to success for themselves and similarly unstoppable female entrepreneurs.

Findings from the study will be presented today at a gathering in Boston of more than 100 invited female entrepreneurs, and published in a new report, "Beyond the Bucks: Growth Strategies of Successful Women Entrepreneurs". The report summarizes insights gathered through in-depth, one-on-one interviews with 30 women business owners, all of whom operate companies generating more than $5 million in annual revenues.

“The research found that gender-based barriers, such as misperceptions regarding market opportunities and access to traditional networks, are challenging, but none of these setbacks stopped these women from achieving success,” said Karen Reynolds Sharkey, business owner executive, Bank of America Private Bank. “By sharing their insights, we seek to support women entrepreneurs and enhance their business growth.”

Today, women own an estimated 12.3 million businesses that employ 9.2 million people and generate more than $1.8 trillion in annual revenues.1 Through the collective experiences of women entrepreneurs in this study, three key themes emerged relating to the challenges they’ve faced when growing their businesses:

  • Market misperceptions – Women entrepreneurs’ competency and market knowledge is routinely disregarded, including market opportunities they identify.
  • 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.
  • Managing expansion while underfunded – Barriers to start-up and growth capital create new, ongoing challenges, including constraints on funding for recruitment, access to new markets and overall expansion.

“Through this research, we identified several actionable strategies women entrepreneurs are using to turn the challenges they face into opportunities and grow their businesses," said Lakshmi Balachandra, Ph.D., assistant professor, entrepreneurship at Babson College and the principal researcher on the project. "These include building on their skills and strengths, and leveraging their personal insights for sustainable growth.”

Much of the focus on women-owned businesses to date has been on the gender gap in venture funding. This groundbreaking study looks at women who have led companies to the growth phase and identifies several strategies that they deploy today and might enable other entrepreneurs to accelerate their business growth, including:

  • Explore various capital alternatives.
  • Build for the long term.
  • Develop a sustainable and talented workforce.
  • Buy from and fund women-owned businesses.
  • Be a mentor, seek a mentor.
  • Join or create new networks.
  • Capitalize on personal insights and experiences.

Bank of America supports the economic empowerment of women through programs such as the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, Global Ambassadors Program and Vital Voices, connecting thousands of women entrepreneurs and committing more than $100 million in affordable loans and other resources. The company also spends more than $2 billion annually with minorities through their supplier diversity program.

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.

Bank of America

Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management, and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 66 million consumer and small business clients with approximately 4,300 retail financial centers, including approximately 2,400 lending centers, 2,600 financial centers with a Consumer Investment Financial Solutions Advisor and 1,900 business centers; approximately 16,600 ATMs; and award-winning digital banking with nearly 38 million active users, including approximately 29 million mobile users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations across the United States, its territories and approximately 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Reporters May Contact:

Matt Card, Bank of America
Phone: 1.617.434.1388

Michael Chmura, Babson College
Phone: 1.781.239.4549


1 Source: "The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: Summary of Key Trends", commissioned by American Express