As we celebrate Women's History Month, it is important to take a step back and admire how far women entrepreneurs have come. In 2019, women-owned businesses employed more than 10 million workers and accumulated $1.8 trillion in profit. Today, more Americans are opening new businesses at a record rate -- there were 5.4 million new business applications last year alone. We know that women-owned businesses are a key driver of this growth, especially businesses owned by minority women.

While there has been historic economic growth, there is still work to do. As an entrepreneur myself, I know all too well the challenges that come with running a business and how far away help may seem. With the pandemic, it has been especially difficult for many women entrepreneurs. In many ways, it has exacerbated pre-existing inequities in our economy, which caused women entrepreneurs to continue to trail men in business ownership. In 2019, 20 percent of all employer firms were women-owned businesses. Women business owners in all demographic groups continue to be underrepresented compared with male business owners.

Economic inequality impacts every aspect of quality of life for women. The data has shown that it impacts women's ability to equitably compete and participate in the marketplace, gain access to capital and resources, and participate in economic decision-making at all levels of government.  

Despite the hardships that have come with the pandemic, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor shows that more than one million new employer firms were opened between March 2020 and March 2021. The number of women who listed self-employed as their primary job increased by more than 200,000 from 2019 to 2020, according to a survey from the  Census Bureau. This shows that there has been an uptick in women entering the entrepreneur community.    

At the SBA, under the leadership of administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, we understand that women are and need to continue to be on the frontline of our recovery. Since President Biden has taken office, supporting women business owners has been a priority, as the SBA has provided billions in financial assistance to millions of women-led small businesses through the American Rescue Plan and other SBA programs. 

The SBA's Community Navigator Pilot Program, another American Rescue Plan initiative, aims to help keep women in the forefront by having 27 of the 51 Navigator grants go to women entrepreneurs. In addition, the SBA has also pursued new contracting reform changes to level the playing field and increase women business owners' access to federal contracting opportunities. 

Currently, the SBA funds and supports the largest Women's Business Centers network (WBC) in SBA history, with more than 140 centers serving diverse communities in 49 states and Puerto Rico -- and that number is growing. 

In 2021, the SBA was proud to double the number of WBCs funded on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in an effort to support aspiring women of color, and soon we will be announcing several WBCs in minority-serving institutions.  

In 2021, the SBA funded a historic 14 resiliency and recovery demonstration projects for a total of $2.7 million to help women entrepreneurs survive the effects of the pandemic. And just last month, the SBA also announced a new chapter in our Ascent digital platform, called Journey 6, focused on educating women business owners about venturing into government contracting.

This month, women entrepreneurs will continue to take center stage as the SBA hosts it 2022 Women's Business Summit, March 28-30, to celebrate all their accomplishments and contributions. As the number of women entrepreneurs increases to unprecedented levels, the SBA looks forward to continuing our efforts to provide the support women business owners need to thrive and bring our assistance to women throughout our diverse communities all over America.