Two business women working at laptops at modern office
Women entrepreneurs still face barriers to growth at higher rates than their male counterparts, but strategic partnerships can help. — Anchiy/Getty Images

Recent years have seen a surge in the number of women entrepreneurs worldwide. Despite this growth, only about one-third of businesses globally are owned by women.

Though shifting societal attitudes and new support networks have made a positive impact, women still face certain barriers to growth at higher rates than their male counterparts. Female-led companies have historically had less access to capital and receive fewer capital investments, and in recent years, many have had to reduce their working hours due to pandemic-related childcare challenges.

To help overcome these obstacles, strategic partnerships between businesses and government organizations, as well as within the private sector, are essential. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 13th Annual International Women’s Day Forum, a panel of female corporate leaders and founders highlighted specific ways that such partnerships can better support women in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Bridge the investment gap between male and female founders

Just under 2% of all VC funds went to women-founded startups in 2022, according to TechCrunch, which represented a drop from the previous year. To address this issue, investing in women's entrepreneurship should be a top priority.

Maria Luisa Boyce, Vice President of Global Public Affairs at UPS, believes supporting women entrepreneurs is a no-brainer.

“For us, investing in women entrepreneurship was really an easy decision to make because it's a good business decision in terms of investment,” Boyce explained. In 2018, UPS launched the Women Exporters Program, aimed at helping women entrepreneurs learn about international trade and enter global markets.

Boyce noted UPS's international trade and investment program takes a three-pronged approach, focusing on building training, knowledge, and expertise for women entrepreneurs, with a special emphasis on small businesses. So far, she said, the program has trained over 107,000 women entrepreneurs.

[Read more: How to Build a Stronger Entrepreneurial Ecosystem for Women]

Provide greater access to capital and inclusion for women entrepreneurs

Dine Diaspora Co-founder and CEO Nina Oduro emphasized the importance of recognizing women as a key aspect of their business approach.

“Across the food industry, across the United States and around the world, racism and sexism are entrenched in the food industry,” Oduro said. “We believe that recognition of women's contributions – particularly Black women's contributions – to the food industry is central.”

Oduro also highlighted the financial disparities Black women face when starting a business, as they often have limited access to startup capital and face higher rates of loan denials. To combat this issue, she said Dine Diaspora educates women on available financing opportunities, connects them with professionals from banks, and fosters relationships with investors interested in working with them to facilitate growth. By supporting and empowering Black women entrepreneurs, Dine Diaspora hopes to play a significant role in promoting equity and inclusion in the food industry.

Build a stronger network of support for women in business

Linnea Gavrilis, a Principal at EY, highlighted the significance of creating a support system through networking. EY has a strong entrepreneurial network of 10,000 members that spans various countries and cultures and provides a “safe place” for women entrepreneurs to ask questions and share ideas while receiving support from like-minded individuals.

According to Gavrilis, when people come together, they tend to collaborate and assist each other in their entrepreneurial endeavors, which, she explained, is “really inspiring to see.” She further added that many aspiring entrepreneurs may have a great idea but need some guidance with execution, and networking can help them take off.

Watch the full panel on Chamber OnDemand: Embarking on Entrepreneurship: Partnerships to Support Women

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

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