NAWBO® Survey Finds Women Business Owners Holding Their Own Amid Economic Downturn

NAWBO® Survey Finds Women Business Owners
Holding Their Own Amid Economic Downturn

(Washington, D.C.) – A new survey of National Association of Women Business Owners® (NAWBO®) members has found that, while women entrepreneurs are facing the same economic difficulties as other businesses across the country, more than half say they have no plans to reduce employment and nearly 25 percent say they actually plan to add jobs this year.

The findings come even as the nation’s jobless rate is the highest in more than 16 years as many of the nation’s largest corporations have cut hundreds of thousands of workers.

“These survey results highlight the strategic strength, compassionate responsibility, and maturity of the women-owned businesses that are uniquely reflected in our membership,” said NAWBO President Cynthia McClain-Hill. “While it is clear that the economic crisis gripping the country is forcing all business owners to make some hard decisions, NAWBO members are not only surviving but appear to be well-positioned to weather the storm.”

NAWBO members, on average, own companies larger than the norm for women-owned businesses, with 21 percent employing 10 or more people and 26 percent making $1 million or more in annual sales. NAWBO members, on average, have owned their companies for nearly a decade, with 42 percent reporting annual sales of over $250,000.

Among findings from the new survey:

  • The state of the economy is NAWBO members’ overriding concern, with three-quarters of respondents saying the current situation is the biggest economic crisis they have faced in their lifetimes.
  • Still, 52% of NAWBO members surveyed said they plan no changes in employment levels, while 24% said they will add jobs this year. NAWBO members’ hiring expectations are sharply higher than the broader market, as a January survey by the National Federation of Independent Businessfound just 9% of businesses surveyed said they plan to create new jobs over the next three months.
  • Just 17% of NAWBO respondents said they plan to reduce staffing this year, compared with the NFIB January survey that found 23% of employers had already reduced staffing in January and 14% planned cuts in the next three months.
  • Meanwhile, 40% of NAWBO members surveyed said they will keep capital investment levels at about the same this year as last – while 17% said they planned an increase.
  • More than half (53%) of NAWBO members surveyed said they plan to expand into new markets this year, while just 3% said they plan store or branch closures.
  • Aside from economic challenges, top issues NAWBO member respondents said they would like to see Congress and the new Administration address this year, in response to an open-ended question, include: healthcare/health insurance reform (45%); tax relief/business taxes (16%); education policies (15%); the war in Iraq (12%); and broader support for small business (11%).
  • 54% of NAWBO respondents said they believe economic and business conditions will be at least somewhat better by the end of this year – and 54% believe their own business will be somewhat or much better than it is today – compared to just 20% and 15%, respectively, who feel that the economy and their own business will be worse by the end of the year.

“As the fastest-growing segment of the market, women entrepreneurs are vital to the growth of the nation’s economy and are at the heart of any sustainable recovery through job creation and revenue growth,” McClain-Hill said.

Recent estimates by the Center for Women’s Business Research indicate that the nation’s more than 10 million women-owned businesses employed 13 million workers, generated $1.9 trillion in sales, and represented more than 40 percent of all privately held firms in 2008.

“NAWBO is committed to the continuing success of our more than 8,000 members across the country, providing essential tips and tools to help women entrepreneurs in these challenging times,”said, Helen Han, NAWBO Executive Director. “Our members are showing outstanding resolve and strength in coping with this economic crisis and will play a crucial role in the nation’s recovery.”

As the pre-eminent national women-owned business organization, NAWBO works to strengthen the wealth-creating capacity of women entrepreneurs, promote economic development, transform public policy, and propel women into economic, social, and political spheres of power worldwide. Learn more at


Methodology note: Findings are from a survey of all members of the National Association of Women Business Owners, conducted online Feb. 4-14, 2009. In all, 749 members responded during the 10-day survey period. The sampling error of a survey of N=749 is ±3.6% at the 95% level of confidence, meaning that – 95 times out of 100 – the survey results will be within 3.6% of true population values.

February 25, 2009
Contact: Judi Erickson