Pandemic Takes Greater Toll on Women-Owned Businesses

Small Business

Women-owned small businesses are hurt more by the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows.

Women-owned small businesses are also less likely than male-owned firms to expect a strong recovery in the coming year, the chamber reports.

Meredith Shay, CEO of Colchester-based InCord.

The chamber report indicates that women-owned small businesses are less optimistic about revenue, investment, and hiring plans.

One example shows that before the pandemic, 67% of male-owned businesses reported their business as good compared to the 62% with that perspective in July 2020.

By contrast, 60% of women-owned businesses ranked operations as good before the pandemic, but by July 2020, only 47% felt the same, according to the report.

“This represents a decline of 13 points for women-owned small businesses versus a small shift of only five points for male-owned businesses that see their businesses’ health as good,” the report said.

‘Level Playing Field’

The report, based on a survey of 500 small business owners and operators that was in the field between July 9-16, offers no explanation for the disparity.

Meredith Shay, CEO of InCord, a custom-netting manufacturer in Colchester, said women- and minority-owned businesses need a level playing field.

It’s critical for minority- and women-owned businesses to have equal access to support networks.”

InCord CEO Meredith Shay

“It’s critical for minority- and women-owned businesses to have the equal access to the same support networks as male-owned businesses,” Shay said.

“These networks support the businesses in so many ways—with moral support, know-how to pivot your business as needed, as well as help in securing capital to manage your cash flow in uncertain times.”

Dual Challenge

In addition, Shay said, women business owners often face the dual challenge of running a business while raising a family.

Shay said she’s fortunate that her husband has been able to stay home with their children, 2 and 4, for the last six months while she’s gone to work.

Not every woman has that luxury, she said.

“If my husband were unable to stay home with our children, there would not have even been a deliberation of what comes first, and the business would certainly be affected in my absence,” she said.

“I can imagine there are many women owners with children in school who may not have the ability to find care for their children and now must juggle educating their children from home and running a business.”

Hiring, Investment Trends

The chamber report also noted that more male-owned businesses have increased staffing in the past year while women-owned businesses were less likely to have hired new workers.

“Male-owned small businesses reporting an increase in staffing grew eight points since the start of the pandemic—from 17% in the first quarter of 2020 to 25% in July—while female-owned small businesses reporting increases in staff remain statistically unchanged—from 18% in the first quarter of 2020 to 15% in July 2020,” the report said.

Trends in investment, revenue projections, and staffing plans make it clear female business owners are less hopeful about the future.

The trends in investment, revenue projections, and staffing plans make it clear that female business owners are less hopeful about the future.

“We cannot allow this pandemic to set back a generation of entrepreneurial women,” said U.S. Chamber president Suzanne Clark.

“We need to help struggling small businesses safely reopen and stay open so they can continue to grow and create jobs in their local communities.”


Women-owned businesses are less optimistic about several factors:

  • Investment plans: In January, 32% said they planned in the coming year to increase investments in their business, similar to male-owned businesses at 28%. While that number remained unchanged for women in July, men saw an increase of 11 points to 39%.
  • Revenue projections: In January, 63% predicted revenues would increase in the coming year, similar to male-owned businesses at 59%. By July, that number fell 14 points to 49%, while male owners remained unchanged at 57%.
  • Staffing expectations: In January, 31% said they expected to add staff in the coming year, similar to male-owned businesses at 30%. By July, there was a 12-point difference between female owners at 24% and male owners at 36%.

Clark called on lawmakers to do more to help the nation’s struggling small businesses.

“Congress’ inability to provide relief to America’s small business owners is unconscionable and inexcusable,” she said.


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