October 27, 2021

Cardin Pushes for Increased Federal Investment in Women Entrepreneurs

Chairman Calls Women-Owned Small Businesses “Growth Engine” for Recovery from COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – As National Women’s Small Business Month draws to a close, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) pushed for the federal government to increase its investment in women entrepreneurs during a hearing today.

The hearing comes on the heels of the 33rd anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act, which eliminated laws that prevented women from securing a business loan without a male co-signer and established the Women’s Business Center Program within the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

“While the pandemic has shined a light on the structural barriers women still face, it has also demonstrated that the federal government can play a key role in breaking down those barriers and empowering women entrepreneurs,” Cardin said during his opening statement, citing a recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Only 9 percent of the initial round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans authorized by the CARES Act went to women-owned small businesses—less than half of the total share of small businesses owned by women, 16 percent. The report found that policies championed by Senate Democrats in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, Economic Aid Act and the American Rescue Plan made later rounds of PPP more equitable and accessible for underserved communities, with women-owned small businesses receiving 16 percent of all loans by the end of the program.

Cardin continued, “This report is proof that through thoughtful, concerted efforts, it is possible to bridge the historical gaps that prevent underserved entrepreneurs from starting and growing small businesses.”

Cardin urged Congress to build on the lessons learned during the pandemic to make further investments in women entrepreneurs as the American economy recovers from COVID-19.

He concluded: “Our efforts to build back better in the years ahead will be another incredible challenge, but they are also an opportunity to help our economy grow in a fairer and more productive way. We simply cannot waste the time that we have to make progress in these areas. We must commit ourselves to using this opportunity to create thoughtful policies that will empower women entrepreneurs for generations to come.”

A full transcript of Cardin’s opening statement, as delivered, follows:

Good afternoon.

Thank you all for joining us today for this important hearing on how the federal government can empower women entrepreneurs and unleash the potential of women-owned small businesses, so they can continue to be a growth engine for our economy as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This hearing comes as we close National Women’s Small Business Month, during which we recognize the contributions of women entrepreneurs to our local and national economies.

I look forward to National Women’s Small Business Month each year because women entrepreneurs should be celebrated for prospering in spite of the historical barriers to success that persist.

National Women’s Small Business Month is particularly important in my home state of Maryland as it boasts the highest concentration of women-owned small businesses in the country – we’re very proud of that. Many of which are owned by minority women.

It is a distinction that fills me with great pride and informs my work as Chair of this committee. Today’s hearing also falls 2 days after the 33rd anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act being signed into law.

This landmark bill eliminated state laws that prevented women from securing a business loan without a male co-signer, and it established the Women’s Business Center Program at the Small Business Administration.

We are now far removed from those antiquated state laws, but the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that women entrepreneurs still face many structural barriers when they start, operate, and attempt to grow small businesses.

Throughout the pandemic, women entrepreneurs have been more likely to report a significant decline in the health of their business than their male counterparts according to research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation.

And historically, women-owned small businesses lag behind male-owned small businesses in four key indicators of future business growth: investment plans, revenue projections, staffing expectations, and access to capital.

While the pandemic has shined a light on the structural barriers women still face, it has also demonstrated that the federal government can play a key role in breaking down those barriers and empowering women entrepreneurs.

A recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office found that that policies championed by Senate Democrats in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, Economic Aid Act and the American Rescue Plan made later rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program more equitable and accessible for underserved communities.

While women small business owners received only 9 percent of initial PPP loans authorized by the CARES Act, the report found that the share of loans made to women-owned small businesses following changes made by Congress increased to 16 percent. This is in line with the percentage of small businesses owned by women, which is also 16 percent.

This report is proof that through thoughtful, concerted efforts, it is possible to bridge the historical gaps that prevent underserved entrepreneurs from starting and growing small businesses.  

I was proud to work with my colleagues in the Senate, including several on this committee, to secure those improvements to PPP, and I am looking to building upon that work in the months and years ahead.

Now, as Congress continues to negotiate President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda—a once-in-a-generation investment in our families, communities, and small businesses—it is vital that we build on the lessons learned during the pandemic to continue investing in women entrepreneurs.

That is why I am looking forward to hearing the testimony of Dr. Tammira Lucas, founder of The Cube Cowork in Baltimore and cofounder of Moms as Entrepreneurs.

Dr. Lucas will shed light on the unique barriers that women, including mothers, face on the path to business ownership. I would also like to congratulate Dr. Lucas on the Cube Cowork’s grand opening of its expansion last week, making it the largest black-owned co-working space in the country. Congratulations.

And I am looking forward to hearing from Women Impacting Public Policy President and CEO Candace Waterman, who advocates on behalf of women business owners to Congress.

I know that that organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary next month, so Candace, I want to thank you and your colleagues for your tireless efforts to empower women small business owners over the last two decades.

I hope to hear from you both about the tools and resources Congress can create and improve to support women on their entrepreneurship journey and ensure their success.

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted a period of tremendous growth for women-owned businesses.

Women-owned businesses employ 9.2 million people—8 percent of the total private sector workforce.

And they generate $1.8 trillion in annual revenue—4.3 percent of annual private sector revenue.

While these numbers seem small on the surface, they tell a remarkable story about the potential for women owned small businesses: from 2007 to 2018, total employment by women-owned businesses rose 21 percent, while employment for all businesses declined by 0.8 percent.

In other words, for the past decade, women-owned small businesses have been drivers of economic growth in our economy despite the myriad headwinds they face on the path to success.

This fact is even more evident when it comes to minority women. Between 2007 and 2018, businesses owned by minority women grew by more than 163 percent.

Imagine what our women entrepreneurs could do if there were less obstacles in their way and if they had more support during their entrepreneurship journey?

Supporting small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most challenging and most important thing this committee has ever done.

Our efforts to build back better in the years ahead will be another incredible challenge, but they are also an opportunity to help our economy grow in a fairer and more productive way. We simply cannot waste the time that we have to make progress in these areas.

We must commit ourselves to using this opportunity to create thoughtful policies that will empower women entrepreneurs for generations to come.

Thank you.