According to the Women President’s Educational Organization (WPEO), businesses owned by women have grown by 21 percent, based on contracts in 2013. In fact, WPEO just announced that 1,600 women-owned businesses with the WPEO certification stamp had completed some 45,000 contracts between March 3, 2012 and April 1st of this year.  The figure, according to Fox Business News represents an increase of 14,000 based on the same period in the prior year.

“In 1977, when 4.5 percent of businesses were owned by women, women-owned businesses tended to be in fashion, fitness, and beauty,” says Marsha Firestone, Ph.D. and president of the WPEO. “Today, that’s no longer true. It’s everything from construction to health care to human resources, such as executive and temporary search.”

The 21 percent increase is more than was expected, says Firestone, who notes that corporations are seeing that they have excellent partners in women-owned business. “If women make 85 percent of purchases—it’s a very large group to leave out,” Firestone notes.

The so-called “good old boy’s network,” says Firestone, is still creating challenges for women-owned businesses, though. “Women still don’t have the connections and don’t have the inroads,” she points out. This leaves a lot of skilled, capable businesses owned by women overlooked when corporations seek proposals for profitable contracts.

This leaves female entrepreneurs still facing a number of challenges, according to an emerging survey conducted by American Express OPEN of 300 women-owned small businesses. Of the women surveyed, 39 percent describe themselves as excellent concerning financial management or accounting, and just 27 percent see themselves as industry leaders who can drive business. Only 26 percent describe themselves as excellent negotiators.

Although the numbers indicate an overall lack of confidence among female entrepreneurs, Firestone says that owning a business is the “great equalizer” among women. “There’s still a long way to go … when it comes to achieving parity for women-owned businesses.” For example, “Women are still only paid 75 cents [on the dollar, in the workforce], but when they have a small business, they can pay themselves what they want. It’s the only place where you have a greater opportunity,” Firestone explains.

It costs $500 for a certification fee with the WPEO, which stamps businesses that meet specific criteria, such as being owned and managed by women. WPEO is a regional affiliate of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.


Karol, Gabrielle. “Women-Owned Businesses Getting More Deals Done“; Fox Small Business. September 23, 2013.