Teri CoaxumWith daily headlines highlighting the importance of creating more jobs and getting Americans back to work, it is timely to discuss the importance of women-owned businesses. This was the topic of a report and a series of nationwide roundtables with women entrepreneurs sponsored by the Office of Advocacy.

The Office of Advocacy, the independent voice of small business in government for 30 years, has a mission of encouraging policies that support small business start-up, growth and development. The office is headed by Dr. Winslow Sargeant, a former small business owner.

The release of the report titled “Developments in Women-Owned Businesses, 1997-2007,” was accompanied by a series of regional roundtables. The study shows that nationally, the number of women-owned businesses increased by almost 44 percent, from 5.4 million in 1997 to 7.8 million in 2007. In addition, the number of women-owned businesses grew at twice the rate of male-owned businesses from 1997 to 2007: 44 and 22 percent, respectively. The study is based primarily on U.S. firm information from the 1997, 2002, and 2007 Survey of Business Owners (SBO), the latest and most comprehensive business datasets released by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

As the Advocate for Region II, I am the eyes and ears of small businesses in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the roundtable held in New York City, women business owners spoke about the challenges they continuously face. They expressed a willingness to do what is needed to fuel the economy, including creating and sustaining jobs so that Americans can get back to work. They also spoke of the need to grow their business and partner with mentors.

Advocacy’s study highlighted the significance of women-owned businesses and the role they play in our economy. These roundtables brought together federal officials, private sector representatives, and women entrepreneurs to discuss the issues and challenges women entrepreneurs face. They were able to offer guidance and solutions to each other. Representatives of federal agencies including the Small Business Administration and the General Services Administration attended these roundtables and were able to inform the participants of federal programs. The women were encouraged to visit FEDBIZOPPS.GOV and identify opportunities for contracting with the government.

By bringing these entrepreneurs together we were able to hear what women-owned businesses need to continue to expand, thrive, and grow so that jobs are available for Americans to get back to work.