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Women-owned businesses in Rhode Island are not growing at the rate as those in the rest of the country. Even more alarming, while the number of businesses is growing at that slower pace, the number of people employed by women-owned companies has actually shrunk since 1997, according to a survey by American Express.
In yet another depressing national ranking, the Ocean State came in No. 48 based on growth in the number of firms, revenue and employment in American Express’ “The 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.” In a state that is desperate for jobs, this reality has significant negative consequences for Rhode Island.
One potential factor in this shortfall is the weaker business networks formed around women-owned businesses. Connections to other businesses and business leaders often lead to new business, if not outright collaborations, all of which lead to growth. Women traditionally have not been part of the informal networks that make up the business community, in some cases out of outright discrimination, but just as likely as the result of not knowing where to start the process.
Networking, advocacy and educational groups, such as the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and the Center for Women and Enterprise, along with more informal groups, such as the new PVD Lady Project, are a start to creating a business ecosystem that can help solve this problem. But it won’t happen without a concerted effort by the business community at large to make growing women-owned businesses a priority. •