Are women solopreneurs in danger of joining a ghettoed under-class of overworked and underpaid workers?

Did you know that in 2016 only 1% of trillion-dollar corporate contracts (USD) went to women-owned businesses? That means the other 99% went to male-owned companies. Let that sink in! In a world where women are not shattering the glass ceiling and are embarking on an alternative entrepreneurial path, yet find themselves excluded in a whole new way, what does this mean in real economic terms? Where and how are these barriers being erected?

An American Express report released in 2016, The State of the Women-Owned Businesses, cited that only 1% of trillion-dollar revenues goes to women-owned business. This data was collected from corporate procurement across fortune 100 and 500 companies. Procurement is the function that buys from vendors and suppliers.

If you are not troubled by this statistics, you should be… There are 11.3 Million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing 9 Million people; 45% of post-recession businesses in the U.S. were started by women, 79% of those newly-formed companies were started by women of color. Florida and Texas are the fastest growing states for female entrepreneurs, with Latinas leading the way, however, without access to corporate buyers, many of these companies will not succeed. 

Overall women-based companies generate over $1.6 trillion in Revenue, which is only 4% of the country’s business revenue. That said, these businesses are not high revenue enterprises, however, with corporations having the largest concentration of capital and cash, by simply making a small effort to source from women-owned companies, they can create a significant shift in the trajectory of these businesses, allowing them to grow and to start closing the wage gap. When people are sincere about making real progress in this area. This is an easy place to start.

I am wholly unconvinced that minority and gender-based certification-programs are making any real impact and most likely they create the chicken or the egg scenario – the existing revenue base or the opportunity, which one came first? For already resource-constrained small businesses, trying to make a dollar out of ten cents this creates a polyanna complex with the sky perpetually falling. 

If you are in fact concerned about this troubling trend and its impact on a large segment of the working population and ultimately the economy as a whole, ask yourself, what role have you played in keeping that 1% steady? As a corporate manager, how many of your suppliers are women-owned businesses? Tthe saleswomen and account manager does not count.

Procurement cannot be blamed entirely for this because even among managers, seeking professional services, there is an increasing trend of not paying speakers, often women, asking them not to sell their services to a large audience but promising ample exposure. These requests are all made with the full expectation of agreeableness and cooperation from the service provider. More women are starting professional services companies than men and if you have a new business, the perception is that you have no leverage.

However, the internet is changing that. Stay tuned for my next article. Building trust and a good reputation online both as an entrepreneur and professional. Guess what? We will be talking about blockchain, trust, and your reputation. You will want to read this!


  • Milka Milliance

    Hi! I'm a women's leadership coach, writer, speaker and executive advisor helping leaders to lead courageously, confidently and collaboratively.

    Milka Milliance, MBA is an international executive advisor and women's leadership coach, writer and speaker dedicated to supporting women to find the courage and confidence to manifest lives in alignment with their core values and motivations. A former management consultant, a leadership practitioner and the author of Your Journey to Self Re-definition: A Woman's Guide to Transitions, Milka is the founder of We R Artemis Leadership Inc., the Heroine's Leadership Journey and the 3Cs of Leadership workshop series for women.