10 things candidates need to know about women entrepreneurs

There’s been a lot said about women this election season. What hasn’t made the headlines, though it should, is the importance of women business owners to the U.S. economy.

Women own nearly 10 million businesses — contributing $1.6 trillion to the economy and employing nearly 9 million people nationwide.

To put that in perspective, women-owned firms make up a third of all businesses in the country, and even more importantly, they’re growing faster in number and employment than most other companies.

The American Express 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report found that between 1997 and 2015, when the number of businesses in the country increased by 51 percent, the number of women-owned firms increased by 74 percent.

The report found that the growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned businesses, over that timeframe, exceeds the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly-traded firms.

Given these numbers, investing in women businesses is a good strategy both from the public and private sector. The stats become more impressive, considering the sizable roadblocks women business owners encounter. This is where the election comes into play.

Government is in a position to help women business owners succeed, but first candidates from the top of the ticket all the way to local office holders need to know what women entrepreneurs need to thrive.

That’s why Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) partnered with the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council to identify 10 things candidates need to know about women entrepreneurs.

We took our platform directly to the candidates at the Democratic and Republican national conventions last month. We received a warm reception from both the Trump and Clinton campaigns, delegates, business and advocacy organizations and small business owners.

Policymakers from both sides of the aisle attended the session, including Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), senior Democrat on the Senate Small Business Committee. Everyone promised to spread our message far and wide.

Here is a summation of the 10 things candidates need to know about women entrepreneurs:

1. They make up a third of all businesses. Women-owned firms are growing at four times the rate of men-owned firms and contribute $1.6 trillion to the American economy.

2. They don’t get the capital that they need. Only 4 percent of all commercial loan dollars go to women.

3. Healthcare costs continue to rise for employers. Congress and the Administration must bring competitively priced and accessible health options to women business owners. This includes fixing Health Reimbursement Accounts, a viable tool for small businesses.

4. Despite significant barriers, women-owned firms compete for and win government contracts: Parity in federal procurement opportunities is essential for women-owned businesses.

5. Women businesses are a good investment. The track record of growth for women business owners is proven, yet only 3 percent of all venture capital goes to companies run by women.

6. Women business owners seek markets beyond U.S. borders. With 95 percent of consumers living outside of the U.S., women’s growth must be fueled by access to international markets. Key to entrance of international markets is intellectual property protection.

7. The burden of regulation can be crushing. We need a regulatory system that is inclusive, transparent and flexible. Firms with fewer than 20 employees, which make up the bulk of women-owned businesses, pay an average of 30 percent more per employee in regulatory costs.

8. Women entrepreneurs embrace technology. By moving away from light touch regulation — which has helped the broadband Internet and technology sector flourish — means less investment and less access to the technologies, These platforms help women business owners compete and succeed.

9. Women business owners have unique policy goals and insights. Women business owners are woefully underrepresented within the regulatory environment. Supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem will require women business owners to have a seat at the table within institutions such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB and other financial agencies.

10. Women business owners seek certainty, simplicity and fairness from the American tax system. The outdated and non-competitive nature of the tax code impacts, and effectively restricts, the plans of women business owners and potential growth of their firms.

Watch a video about WIPP’s policy platform here:

WIPP’s Policy Platform: 10 Things Candidates Need to Know About Women Entrepreneurs

With less than 100 days until Americans head to the polls, it’s more important than ever that candidates make women business owners a priority. Our nation’s economic prowess is at the top of most candidates’ platforms, and the economy will benefit from assisting women’s business growth.

So for every candidate running for office this year — go ahead, talk about the 10 million women starting businesses and employing workers. We’re an essential part of a healthy economy and must be part of the conversation.

Ann Sullivan is the Chief Advocate for Women Impacting Public Policy

*This post was originally published on The Hill on Aug. 6, 2016