TSE Quick Take: Millennial Female Entrepreneurs Hit Roadblocks

A new report from the National Women’s Business Council shows young women want to start up ventures — but are being held back by some troubling obstacles.

Candice Helfand-Rogers By Candice Helfand-Rogers

Many more millennial women say they want to start up businesses than actually do, the National Women's Business Council found in a multi-source report it released last week. (Credit: Bonnie Kittle, StockSnap)

Many more millennial women say they want to start up businesses than actually do, the National Women’s Business Council found in a multi-source report it released last week.
(Credit: Bonnie Kittle, StockSnap)

On any given day, America’s millennials — women and men born between 1982 and 2000 — are depicted as either enterprising or entitled, depending on who’s talking.

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) recently decided to find out the truth, at least for young would-be women business owners. After all, recent data have shown that millennials are starting businesses at lower rates than earlier generations at the same age. But do today’s young people truly lack entrepreneurial spirit? Or is something else going on?

Well, it’s not for lack of entrepreneurial desire, NWBC’s research shows. Many more millennial women say they want to start up than actually do, according to a multi-source report it released last week. It found that while 66 percent of millennials, female and male, express interest in launching a venture, only 5 percent have actually done so. Some 4 percent of 30-year-olds say they are self-employed, compared to 5.5 percent of Generation X and 6.7 percent of Baby Boomers when they were 30.

“While today’s young people lead the country in entrepreneurship as a mentality, they are not leaders in entrepreneurship as an occupation and activity,” says Dolores Rowen, NWBC’s research manager.

So do millennials lack drive? The agency’s preliminary research suggests the answer is no, particularly among young women.

Rather, the trouble seems to be crushing student loan debt and depressed incomes following the Great Recession that are only slowly improving, according to the report. “Post-recession unemployment has begun to abate, increasing employment among millennial Americans. However, wages have declined twice as fast for millennials as for the rest of the population. In addition, millennial women consistently earn less than their male counterparts.”

More millennials have college debt, and they owe a lot of money. The number educational borrowers rose 89 percent in the decade between 2014 and 2004, while average debt balances grew 77 percent, NWBC found. Those trends suggest a heavy burden for today’s young business owners, who are also statistically more likely to bootstrap startups than their counterparts in previous generations.

Additional studies are needed to understand what to do to make entrepreneurship a more accessible option for young women. “Developing an understanding of who millennial women entrepreneurs are, what drives them and what challenges they face is germane to developing policies and regulatory changes that support growth,” the report says.

The impact of student loan debt on female millennial entrepreneurship is of particular concern to Rowen. Her conversations with leaders on the ground suggest that expanding student-loan forgiveness programs to include young female entrepreneurs could help, she says.

Outreach and education is needed too. “There seems to be a lack of awareness regarding entrepreneurship as a possible career route,” she adds. And among those considering starting up, few know about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Centers, or other government programs like Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer that can help them get off the ground.

“There is a community here that wants to help you succeed,” she says. “Millennials are our next job creators. We want to make sure we’re putting in the right support systems for that population, to ensure they are getting what they need.”

You can read the full NWBC report here.

Posted: June 21, 2017

Candice Helfand-RogersTSE Quick Take: Millennial Female Entrepreneurs Hit Roadblocks
  • Mike

    “So do millennials lack drive? The agency’s preliminary research suggests the answer is no, particularly among young women”
    This suggests that young women have more drive than men but you didn’t elaborate or say what part of the agency’s research supports this as a fact.

    “Rather, the trouble seems to be crushing student loan debt and depressed incomes following the Great Recession”
    Surely this affects all young people. This does not seem to be a point which is particularly pertinent to your article’s subject

    “In addition, millennial women consistently earn less (wages) than their male counterparts”
    While that is an issue to be tackled in general terms, how does this affect entrepreneurship among women? Surely the whole point of being an entrepreneur is to move away from being waged to being self employed. In that case, you are responsible for your own wages.

    “expanding student-loan forgiveness programs to include young female entrepreneurs could help”
    I cannot see why loan forgiveness should be specially tailored to young female entrepreneurs. Why not fight to expand that for everyone? Surely we should be encouraging young men and women to work to change this world to make it better for all. Inclusiveness being the important word.

    I felt this article was weak and was trying hard to point out an injustice to millenial entrepreneurial women which didn’t actually exist. When I read the headline I thought it would be interesting to find out why women were hitting some sort of significant ‘Roadblocks’. As entrepreneurs, the whole idea of this type of career is to face roadblocks head on and fight through them. It’s the life blood of the business.

    In any event, by the end the article I didn’t really see that there was any significant roadblock at all to women becoming successful entrepreneurs, at least not by this article’s reckoning. The whole thing felt a bit fake if I’m honest. There are many, many women in the world who are fantastic and successful entreprenurs, but I feel it is disingenouous to women to make them feel like they are victims who need some special treatment. Any women I know in business just get on with it like the rest of us. I’m pretty sure most of them would be insulted (well probably laugh actually) if I suggested they needed any special help to be the successful people they are. In the end, the ‘roadblock’ turned out to be inequality in wages, nothing to do with being an entrepreneur. It would have been more helpful to write and article encourage all millenial entrepreneurs to pay their employees equitably and fairly for the work they do to help make their buinsess a success and use the wage inequality information in the report to back it up,.