Happy business owner of an outdoor restaurant smiling.
Here's how to bridge the gap between where women business owners are and where they want to be. — Getty Images / andresr

Women are starting more businesses than ever right now, especially women of color. However, there is a gap between women who launch businesses and those who successfully grow and scale them, because these entrepreneurs often lack the resources or support to reach their full potential.

During the second day of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 12th Annual International Women’s Day Forum, a panel of four female entrepreneurs talked about their journeys, the current entrepreneurial ecosystem for women in the pandemic era, and how to bridge the gap between where women business owners are and where they want to be.

Allocate more venture capital to female founders

In 2020, just 2.3% of venture capital funding went to female founders. Despite studies that show the average female-led company delivers more than twice as much per dollar invested than male-run organizations, these entrepreneurs still face difficulties getting capital.

Jenny Abramson, founder and managing partner of Rethink Impact, said her company aims to bridges this gap by using technology to help female leaders find venture capital opportunities, specifically if their business addresses mental health challenges, educational inequality, workforce training needs and environmental sustainability.

“Beyond building and supporting ecosystem, our main job is to invest from two funds,” said Abramson. “We typically look at about a thousand companies a year of which we select four to five to invest in.”

[Read more: 7 Successful Startups Founded by Women]

Intentionally provide more opportunities to women-led companies, both domestically and abroad

Investors shouldn’t just be looking domestically for female-founded companies to support; they should also be looking to fund ventures in developing countries.

Wendy Teleki, head of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative Secretariat, works with these international female entrepreneurs to find investments. She notes women receive fewer corporate value chain contracts and venture capital than male-led firms. Through her work, Teleki has seen investments in businesses with women involved do better than those without.

“Funds with gender-balanced leadership generate 20% higher returns and in turn, [female] managers are twice as likely to invest in women-led firms, which also employ more women,” she said.

Focus on resource access for female small business owners

Like many companies during the first month of the pandemic, Comcast was donating dollars to support charitable causes. To make even more of an impact, the company started Comcast RISE, a resource program for small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19.

In its first year, Comcast RISE provided more than $60 million in grants, marketing and technology services to thousands of small businesses owned by people of color, according to its website. The program has since expanded to help support all women-owned businesses nationwide.

Teresa Ward-Maupin, the SVP of digital and customer experience for Comcast, said the program’s goal was to provide equal access for small businesses. Comcast RISE monetary grants help get businesses equipment, consultation media and production services, as well as a platform for small business owners to connect with and learn from each other.

“[They can] get tools, get coaching and mentor to help their businesses as well,” added Ward-Maupin. “So far … Comcast RISE [has] positively impacted 8,000 minority and women-owned small businesses across 590 cities and 334 states.”

[Read more: 10 Resources for Women-Owned Businesses]

Strengthen networks and ecosystems for women-owned businesses

Because of the lack of entrepreneurial and monetary resources available to them, many women may feel isolated when they first start their businesses. Female entrepreneurs need to be able to tap into a strong network of fellow female-led companies for mentorship and support.

Anurati Mathur, CEO of Sempre Health, discussed how her pharmaceutical company had no support in the beginning. By making connections within the female entrepreneurial ecosystem, and eventually getting funding through Rethink Impact, the company was able to build an incredible team.

“Six years later, our team is grown, it is accomplished, it is diverse,” said Mathur. “Every person who works here is just as passionate about health care as I am. And while working at a startup might be many kinds of stressful, even on the good days … we're no longer alone, and building the team has been a really immense part of that.”

Watch the full recap of Day 2 of the 12th International Women’s Day Forum on Chamber OnDemand.

[Read more: 10 Women-Owned Business Directories for Your Business to Join]

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