Women entrepreneurs have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. According to a report by the US Chamber of Commerce, compared to men, they’ve been less likely to rate their business as “healthy” and much less likely to have hired workers—or even entertain plans to hire workers in the immediate future.
Women are also more likely to be in industries negatively impacted by the pandemic and more likely to juggle entrepreneurship with other duties, such as being the primary caregiver and managing homeschooling duties.
But enough of the bad news. Let’s focus on ways that we can support women entrepreneurs during these trying times. Here’s some of the best advice from fellow women business owners.
Perhaps the most important way to show support for women entrepreneurs is to be committed to seeking them out. “We can support them by being conscious of how we are spending our money and intentionally supporting women-owned businesses, says Wendy Muhammad, a real estate developer.
Making a conscious effort to like and share information about a women-owned business on social media is another way to show your support. Exposure is critical and explains why companies spend so much on advertising—and why they spend more on social media than other advertising mediums.
However, B. Michelle Pippin, owner of Women Who WOW, stresses that social media amplification is not as important as making a purchase. “One popular saying is, ‘Even if you can’t buy from her, hitting like or making a comment costs nothing,’ and this is true.” But the problem with that strategy, according to Pippin, is that liking or sharing an entrepreneur’s social media post isn’t putting money in anyone’s pocket. “The women entrepreneurs I work with every day aren’t ‘playing business’—this is how their families are supported financially.”
One interesting fact about women founders: there’s rampant gender disparity in funding.
So when you can, it’s important to actually buy a product or service. And if you can’t buy something yourself, Pippin recommends introducing women entrepreneurs to people who can.
Social media makes it easier to find women-owned businesses, but according to N. Damali Peterman, Esq., founder and CEO of Breakthrough ADR, this should extend beyond likes and shares by consumers. “For example, companies and influencers should highlight women-owned businesses in their networks and on their social media platforms,” she explained. “Online retailers like Amazon should have a symbol or identifying mark that indicates if a product is a woman-owned brand.” Peterman says she’s often been in a physical store trying to decide between 2 similar items and made her decision based on the “Woman-Owned” logo on the packaging.
The sisterhood of women entrepreneurs can create a level of support that is mutually beneficial. “Meet each other on Zoom, connect via email, write content that expresses how you are experiencing the pandemic that can be shared,” recommends Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.
“Being a strong steward of information and your experience can be a great way to help other women and to connect.” In fact, when Sweeney writes an article or shares an experience, she often receives feedback from women. “This feedback helps me improve and learn, and others can receive takeaways that can help them.”
Another way to show support for women entrepreneurs is to collaborate with them. Talia R. Boone, founder and CEO of Postal Petals, looks for ways to work with other women and support Black business owners to help them grow their respective businesses. “For example, on Friday on our social media platforms, Postal Petals celebrates #BlackFloristFridays.”
However, she says it’s those collaborations with larger companies that can help change the trajectory of a small business. “Seek out opportunities to partner with and hire services of women-owned businesses,” Boone advises.
Her advice is seconded by Muhammad. “If you have a business, make women-owned companies one of your stakeholders, and make it a point to hire services providers, for example, who work for women-owned businesses,” she says.
Collaboration can also take the form of offering business discounts. “My company has a Let’s Grow Again! plan that provides startups and small businesses discounted rates for public relations and SEO services,” explains Lisa Porter of Porter PR & Marketing. The goal is to give companies a hand so they can get back on track without the added stress of wondering how they can pay for marketing. “My company got plenty of help when we started, and now it’s time to give back,” she says.
Being a woman entrepreneur is exciting, but it can also be frustrating and mentally draining.
“If you have a woman in your life who is leading a small business, you can support her by encouraging her to evolve, adapt, and expand with the changing business landscape,” advises
Bri Seeley, business growth advisor and entrepreneur coach. “Encourage her to look beyond what her business has been and to begin looking at what it could be.”
Sometimes, that’s hard for women to do when they’re struggling to stay afloat while juggling numerous other roles at home. “The best way to help women entrepreneurs is to provide mental support to lift them up when they hit challenges,” says Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD, entrepreneurship coach, business branding mentor, and author of Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur.
“Female founders will continue to hit obstacles—it’s a part of the game, and the important thing for them is to be able to regroup, come up with Plan B, C, D, etc., find the silver lining and not take setbacks or failure personally.”
If you’re in a position to mentor women entrepreneurs, you could help them learn from your mistakes and avoid unnecessary pitfalls. “The easiest way to help them is by purchasing products, but mentoring women business owners will have a more lasting effect on their success,” explains Amy Edge, who specializes in operations and project management for entrepreneurs. “If you have the resources and skills to do so, share your expertise with women who are looking to get into business.”
There are a lot of ways to help women entrepreneurs, so If you’re on the sidelines, the most important thing is to get involved and do something—not just for women but for the economy in general. “If small businesses are the backbone of the economy, women entrepreneurs are the skeletal system that holds everything together,” says Peterman.