Having the most high-impact women entrepreneurs isn't enough. The U.S. needs to move the needle.
That was the takeaway from Dell’s Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard, which the Round Rock, Texas-based computer giant released at its sixth-annual Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Summit in Berlin on Tuesday. The U.S. ranked highest among 31 countries surveyed, including Canada, Australia and Sweden. However, the country’s overall performance has stagnated in the three years since Dell began sponsoring the study, which is aimed at identifying and measuring impediments to fast-growth, women-owned businesses.
That’s got to change, says the study’s lead researcher Ruta Aidis. “If women were starting growth-oriented businesses at the same rate as men, we’d have 15 million new jobs created in the next two years,” she estimates. “We’re really losing out when we’re not able to address those concerns.”
More than 70 percent of the countries in the study scored below 50 percent (out of 100 percent) across a mix of categories including access to resources, women in leadership roles and women’s rights. The U.S. topped the list with a score of 71 out of 100, bolstered by factors such as its favorable business environment for women and job mobility in the private sector.
While the U.S. hasn't lost ground, it has made next to no progress. “What we’d really like to see in the U.S. is a proactive approach, thinking about the future: How are we able to engage women as well as men?” says Aidis, who is a fellow at George Mason University's Arlington, Virginia campus.
Here are a few ways the report suggests to bolster high-impact women entrepreneurs in America--and if in the process it creates 15 million jobs, godspeed:
1. Give a woman a fish: Even in the U.S., access to capital is still a key challenge, as evidenced by the abysmal number of female startup founders who successfully attract venture capital funding. According to 2014 Babson College study on venture capital over the past 15 years, 2.7 percent of startups with women CEOs land venture capital. Part of the reason why this number is so slim is women tend to invest in women, but only a small minority of limited partners at VC firms are women. The Babson study noted that the number of women in this role has declined to 6 percent from 10 percent since 1999.
2. Entrepreneurship beyond borders: It’s also helpful to foster entrepreneurship growth by having strong ecosystems with plenty of access to resources like mentors and educational materials. The U.S. checks this bucket better than other countries, but that doesn’t mean the country isn’t facing its own innovation deserts. “Women are saying they don’t know how to be an entrepreneur,” says Aidis. As such, expanding entrepreneurial programs and activities for business-oriented women in communities between the coasts would be a good first step.
3. Pay it forward: Beyond expanding women entrepreneurs’ exposure, there’s an obligation that female entrepreneurs have themselves, says Aidis. “Women are so focused on their businesses that they forget to step back and see what they’ve achieved,” she says. “A number of them have the influence to make an impact.”
4. Promote women: Only 13 percent of startups have women on their executive team, according to the Leadership Scorecard. Women aren’t making up much ground on corporate boards either. In 2014, women accounted for 19 percent of board seats in the publicly traded companies of the S&P 500, according to Catalyst, a workplace research firm. This stands in stark comparison to other countries. For instance, starting this year, Germany now requires public companies to give 30 percent of board seats to women. Indeed, adds Aidis, “having more women in decision-making positions in the private sector will help women.”