Many women business owners don't utilize the credit services available to them, according to a survey conducted by National City Corporation of Cleveland. More than 40% of the 250 respondents said they do not have credit with any bank or financial institution.

This finding raises concerns that these businesses are forfeiting growth by not tapping sources of credit. Women have a 50% or greater stake in nearly half of all privately-held firms in the United States, according to the Center for Women's Business Research located in Washington, D.C. The center estimates these firms generate $2.46 trillion in revenue and employ more than 19 million people.

With interest rates still at historical lows, it's certainly a good time to pursue credit. The reason given by one-third of respondents for not doing so was that their businesses were start-ups. While this was the most common reason, more than 25% said they did not apply because they believed they wouldn't qualify. Another 20% felt the process was too difficult.

"We need to work harder at encouraging women business owners to apply for credit instead of them thinking they are not worthy of it," Linda Stevenson, director of National City's Women Business Owner Intiatives, said recently. "The credit process is simpler than they realize."