According to the newly released National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) Annual Report, women entrepreneurs are starting businesses at unprecedented rates — more than one in four U.S. companies is owned or led by a woman — but they are doing so with significantly less external capital than businesses that are not women-led.

Among the most successful firms, men start their businesses with six times as much capital as women do; and while they are more likely than their male counterparts to see the rapid growth that entrepreneurs hope to achieve, women-owned firms are still less likely to have more employees themselves than other firms, across all industries.

Disparities Remain

These findings confirm that the full economic participation of women and their success in business can significantly contribute to job growth in this country and is critical to the continued economic recovery.

But, they also highlight the disparities and challenges women entrepreneurs face in their business pursuits. In its annual report, the NWBC has identified opportunities and intervention points, along with policy recommendations, that move the dial for women entrepreneurs from potential to success.

“Women entrepreneurs have significantly increased their economic impact in the past few decades. Today, women business owners are the fastest growing segment of the economy,” said Carla Harris, the presidentially-appointed chair of the NWBC.

“Our hope is to sustain this momentum and build bridges between influencers, institutions and entrepreneurs so that we can positively impact the business climate for women,” said Harris. “The work of the council is grounded in the belief that women have innovative ideas, that women are strong leaders and that women are launching businesses that create value and solve problems.”

For Support

As a non-partisan federal advisory council, the NWBC makes policy recommendations to the White House, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) on how best to increase, influence and support the women’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The NWBC’s fiscal 2014 annual report, “Building Bridges: Leveraging Research and Relationships to Impact the Business Climate for Women,” is an overview of women in entrepreneurship, including a summary of key research findings, policy recommendations and the council’s agenda in the year ahead.

In 2015, the NWBC will work strategically and collaboratively with key influencers, stakeholders and policy-makers to take action on these recommendations, and continue research that illuminates the issues, challenges and opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

On the Agenda

This year’s recommendations from the NWBC include tax credits for investors who finance women-owned and women-led firms; ideas to encourage women in the STEM fields, an industry with proven high-growth potential; increased access to affordable child care, as research shows that women who are self-employed at home with dependent children are less likely to expand their businesses; creating opportunities to align women business owners with government and corporate procurement officials; and the implementation of the sole source authority for the Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program — which passed in the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act and is now awaiting implementation by the U.S. SBA.

“We understand that our agenda for 2015 is ambitious, but it’s one we believe in. Through our research and collaboration, we have identified strategic intervention points where policy-makers can fundamentally change the game for women entrepreneurs,” said Amanda Brown, executive director of the NWBC. “Women are the fastest growing segment of the entrepreneurship economy, and it’s crucial they get access to the capital and markets they need for growth and sustained success.”

The full report can be downloaded at www.nwbc.gov/research/building-bridges-leveraging-research-and-relationships-impact-business-climate-women.

Samhita Mukhopadhyay is director of strategic engagement and communications with the National Women’s Business Council in Washington, D.C. She can be contacted at 202-615-6570 and samhita.m@nwbc.gov.