COLUMN: Women in Small Business, The Unsung Heroes
March is Women’s History Month, a time when we honor women’s important contributions to our nation’s story. In concurrence with this celebration, I recently co-hosted a roundtable discussion as co-Chair of the Small Business Caucus to highlight the valuable impact that women-owned small businesses have in communities across the country, as well as explore some of the challenges that women face when it comes to growing or strengthening their businesses.
Serving as co-Chair of the Small Business Caucus and as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services gives me the opportunity to look at the lending practices of banks, the gatekeepers of capital for millions of small businesses. The primary source of capital for small business has traditionally been through the banking system, which hasn’t always made accessing capital easy, especially for women business owners.
The roundtable discussion focused on the barriers that women-owned small businesses face, especially when it comes to access to capital. I was reminded that women-owned businesses only account for 16% of conventional small business loans, and only 4% of all commercial loan dollars. This data from Senate Small Business Committee is striking, considering women-owned small businesses contribute trillions of dollars to our economy every year. The roundtable discussion was a good jumping-off point to become more actively engaged with local financial institutions, as well as small business owners – from non-profits to franchisees – to raise awareness of this issue and find actionable solutions to help right the discrepancy in lending and opportunity.
From a congressional standpoint, it’s my colleagues’ and my responsibility to make sure our regulators are also paying close attention to this challenge. I raised this issue during a recent hearing with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathy Kraninger. She assured me the CFPB is well-equipped to help manage the lending disparity in small business loans and highlighted that the CFPB’s resources can lead to better lending practices. I agree that the CFPB is equipped to address this issue, but it must be careful to use its supervisory and enforcement authority in a way that doesn’t add to the long list of federal compliance burdens that already create barriers for lenders and small business owners.
It is my hope that we can find a bipartisan path forward to level the playing field for women-led ventures. Our nation’s history is full of success stories, many of them rooted in small business. The continued success of women-led businesses should not be stalled due to biases in accessing capital. I will continue to work to ensure that all entrepreneurs can grow, create jobs, and serve their communities.