Unlocking Assets: Building Women’s Wealth Through Business Ownership

woman hanging "open" sign on glass

More women are business owners than ever before. But because of the continuing obstacles they face, their businesses do not generate the same levels of wealth as male-owned businesses.

Unlocking Assets: Building Women’s Wealth Through Business Ownership, a report sponsored by the Asset Funders Network (AFN), in collaboration with Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap (CWWG), shows how women entrepreneurs experience pronounced difficulties in starting, funding, and growing businesses and outlines strategies for how they might be overcome. The report highlights the growth of women-owned businesses nationwide, enterprises that have more than doubled in number over the past two decades. But as the report makes clear, these enterprises are typically smaller and are outperformed significantly by male-owned firms with respect to longevity, profits, employment, and annual sales.

Key Findings

  • In 2015, 36 percent of firms were women-owned, but these businesses accounted for just 12 percent of all sales revenues.
  • Business ownership can be a key generator of wealth: The median net worth of unmarried adults who own a business is nine times higher than those who do not own a business. However, it is not a one-way street. Entrepreneurship can aid wealth accumulation, but wealth is also required to launch a business. As such, it is harder for women to start and expand businesses, since they have fewer personal financial assets to draw from.
  • A recent analysis from Project Diane discovered that, between 2012 and 2014, black women founders received only 0.2 percent of all venture capital; moreover, their average deal was for only $36,000, whereas the average failed start-up—predominantly white male-led—received $1.3 million in funding.
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