For decades now, it’s been a game of catch-up for women in business—and they’ve gained a lot of ground. Since 2007, the number of women-owned firms has grown five times faster than the national average, according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report. In fact, women are now three times as likely to start their own businesses as men, and that number is on the rise. Women are being evermore recognized as successful business leaders and entrepreneurs in the U.S. as well as worldwide. Cherie Hill, a real estate agent and broker who owns Cherie Resource Team, says the real estate investment world is largely made up of men, and at times because she is a young woman, she is not taken seriously. “I push myself harder because I’m a woman to show other women and minorities that you can own your own company and you can become a great leader in our nation,” says Hill. She advises women business owners to keep striving to rise to the top and to take a fellow female business owner by the hand and help her up. “Just like that, the power is in you. Walk in it. You have the power to achieve all that you think of achieving,” she says. Funding Gap While women are indeed reaching new heights in the small business world, statistics show that the glass ceiling hasn’t shattered. Several studies show a gender gap between male- and female-owned businesses when it comes to small business financing, with women trailing men in revenues and earnings, credit scores, and average loan size. On average, female business owners ask for less funding, about $35,000 less than their male counterparts, and women business owners make multiple attempts to secure bank loans or lines of credit. Forty percent of women business owners applying for a loan never succeed in obtaining funding. Lending marketplaces like Lendio are helping to bridge this gap in business loan access for women business owners by offering them a host of financing options from a variety of lenders. No longer bound by banks’ conservative lending standards, women small-business owners can apply for capital on more than just collateral and credit scores alone. By assessing a business’s online sales, cash flow, banking transactions, and other data, marketplaces are making it easier for women-owned businesses to find a loan product that suits their needs so they can continue to grow as a vital part of the U.S. economy. Female Business Owners Are Optimistic About the Future Women-owned small businesses show no signs of slowing down. Approximately half of the female business owners surveyed expect to increase revenue in the coming year and anticipate business growth over the next 5 years. Whether they move up the corporate ladder or become entrepreneurs, women continue to prove their value in the business world. Companies with female executives report higher profitability margins, and countries with a high female labor force are more resilient to downturns. The big picture is clear: women are bolstering business, and this is just the beginning.