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By Gina Harman
The White House State of Women Summit was an awe-inspiring gathering of more than 5,000 leaders in business, politics, and social justice activism all working to reduce barriers to women’s opportunity. I had the the privilege of joining a panel of women representing nonprofit organizations, investment firms, financial technology companies and more to discuss how to expand women’s access to capital. While we are all working to address this issue in different ways, we can all agree on the fact that women entrepreneurs are great investments – and that more people need to realize it.
Companies with gender and ethnic diversity on their leadership teams perform better than their peers in the field, and the companies represented at the conference were a testament to this fact. Nina Vaca, CEO of The Pinnacle Group, noted that 64 percent of the critical decision makers in her company are women. “When you allow women to unleash their leadership potential, they’re going to deliver,” she said. The Pinnacle Group, which earns more than $650 million in annual revenues, is 100 percent women and minority-owned. Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle, attributed much of her company’s success to the fact that 86 percent of its leadership team is made up of women. Soul Cycle expanded its total revenue from $36.2 million in 2012 to $112.0 million in 2014.
Nevertheless, women-owned and minority-owned firms continue to receive a
disproportionally low share of financing to start their businesses. Just 14 percent of
SBA-backed loan dollars went to women-owned businesses in 2016 and 30 percent
went to minority-owned businesses as of June 10. The numbers are even worse for venture capital. Only 2.7 percent of venture capital-funded companies had a woman CEO between 2011 and 2013. A 2010 study found that 13 percent of venture-capital backed firms were minority owned.
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