Aug 26, 2020 - 6:00am

Special Report on Women-Owned Small Businesses During COVID-19

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Report Summary

Poll Shows Coronavirus Pandemic Disproportionately Affecting Female-Owned Small Businesses


Women-owned small businesses have been more heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic than male-owned small businesses, and they are less likely to anticipate a strong recovery in the year ahead, new data show. The Special Report on Women-Owned Small Businesses During COVID-19 1 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also found that women-owned small businesses have less optimistic revenue, investment and hiring plans compared to male-owned small businesses.

Before the coronavirus pandemic began 67% of male-owned businesses ranked the overall health of their business as “good,” while fewer (60%) women-owned businesses said the same. But by July 2020, 62% of male-owned small businesses said their businesses was “good,” but just 47% (15 points less compared to male-owned) of female-owned businesses ranked the overall health of their business as “good.” This also represents a decline of 13 points for women-owned small businesses versus a small shift of only five points for male-owned businesses who see their businesses health as “good.”

Also, more male-owned businesses report increasing staffing in the past year, while female-owned businesses are less likely to have done so. Male-owned small businesses reporting an increase in staffing grew eight points since the start of the pandemic (from 17% in Q1 2020 to 25% in July), while female-owned small businesses reporting increases in staff remain statistically unchanged (from 18% in Q1 2020 reporting an increase in staff to 15% in July 2020, a difference of three points).   

Female-owned small business owners also have less optimistic future business plans compared to male-owned small businesses. This trend is clear in investment, revenue projections, and staffing plans:

  • Investment plans: Female-owned small businesses showed no change from Q1 to July (remained at 32%) when asked if they plan to increase investments in the coming year. However, their male counterparts saw an 11% jump over the same period, increasing from 28% to 39%. That is, an 11-point increase for men versus a 0-point change for women in investment plans pre- and post-COVID.
  • Revenue projections: 59% of male-owned small businesses said they expected next year’s revenue to increase in Q1 and that figure remained statistically the same in July (57%). Similarly, 63% of female-owned small businesses reported that they expected revenues to increase in the coming year in Q1, but 49% said the same in July (a 14-point fall).  
  • Staffing expectations: In Q1, 30% of male-owned and 31% of female-owned small businesses said they expected to increase the size of their staff in the coming year. In July, 36% of male-owned businesses (a six-point increase) said that they expect to increase staff, but only 24% of female-owned businesses said the same (a seven-point drop), revealing a current 12-point gap between the two in plans to increase staff. 

 

Report Highlights

  • Months into pandemic, women-owned small businesses perceptions of business health drop further. Male-owned small businesses characterizing their business health as good dropped slightly by five points from Q1 to July (from 67% to 62%). In contrast, female-owned business saying their businesses are in good health dropped 13 points over the same period (from 60% to 47%).  
  • Male-owned businesses more likely to report increase in staff. Male-owned small businesses reporting an increase in staffing grew eight points since the start of the pandemic (from 17% in Q1 2020 to 25% in July), while female-owned small businesses reporting an increase in hiring remained statistically unchanged (from 18% in Q1 to 15% in July, a difference of three points).   
  • Women-owned businesses report flat investment plans, while male-owned businesses prepare to invest. Female-owned small businesses showed no change in future investment plans for the coming year from Q1 to July (remained at 32%). Meanwhile, their male counterparts saw an 11% jump in planning increased investments over the same period (from 28% in Q1 to 39% in July).   
  • Fewer women-owned businesses expect a revenue increase. 59% of male-owned small businesses said they expect next year’s revenue to increase in Q1 and that figure remained statistically the same in July (57%). Similarly, 63% of female-owned small businesses reported in Q1 that they expected revenues to increase in the coming year. The percent of women-owned businesses reporting the same expectation fell 14 points in July (to 49%).
  • Staffing plans diverge, with male-owned businesses more likely to hire. In Q1, 30% of male-owned and 31% of female-owned small businesses said they expected to increase the size of their staff in the coming year. In July, 36% of male-owned businesses (a six-point increase) said that they expect to increase staff, but only 24% of female-owned businesses said the same (a seven-point drop), revealing a current 12-point gap between the two in plans to increase staff. 

 


Survey Methodology

These are the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between July 9-16, 2020. For this survey, a sample of roughly 500 small business owners and operators age 18+ from the continental U.S. Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online in English.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel, partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to the study, in drawing sample. Small businesses are defined in this study as companies with fewer than 500 employees that are not sole proprietorships. Ipsos used fixed sample targets, unique to this study, in drawing sample. This sample calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. small business population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 Statistics of U.S. Businesses dataset. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on firmographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on region, industry sector and size of business.\

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.0 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=500, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-6.5 percentage points).

Percentage breakdowns for region, employee size, and sector:

Employee SizesRegions

In Q1 2020, the survey was conducted via phone. Beginning in Q2 2020, the MetLife/U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index survey has been conducted via a monthly online survey, in place of the typical phone-based approach. This methodological shift is in response to anticipated lower response rates in dialing business locations as a result of mandated closures related to the COVID-19 outbreak. While significant changes in data points can largely be attributed to the recent economic environment, switching from a phone to online approach may have also generated a mode effect.