International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1911. The “Day” was created during a turbulent time when women were rallying for the right to work, vote, and be treated as equals. While there has been tremendous progress since the early pioneers began their campaign 110 years ago, there is still a disproportionate gap between women’s aspirations for equality and reality.
WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) was founded in 1997 to close this gap by creating and managing a nationwide standard for women-owned business certification. The organization has 17,000 WBENC-Certified women-owned businesses today and has grown to become the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States. They are a leading advocate for women-owned businesses in corporate and government supply chains.
We had a virtual catch-up with Andrew Gaeckle, the Director of Strategic Planning at WBENC, to find out what is new.
Coupa Supplier (CS): The number of women entrepreneurs has been on the rise for a while now; what is the current size of the market?
Andrew Gaeckle (AG): A woman-owned business (WOB) is defined as at least 51% owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women. Based on 2019 data, 42% of all US businesses are woman-owned. There are 13 million businesses employing 9.4 million people and generating $1.9 trillion in revenue annually.
(CS):Wow, that is a substantial part of the economy. Do you have a sense of how women-owned businesses fared during the pandemic?
(AG): A report done by the US Chamber of Commerce in July of 2020 showed that women-owned small businesses were disproportionately affected by COVID. By July 2020, 62% of small male-owned companies said their businesses were “good,” but just 47% (15 points less compared to male-owned) of women-owned businesses ranked the overall health of their business as “good.” Also, women-owned businesses were delaying investments and staffing growth.
We started a program called WeTHRIVE for our WBEs in mid-2020 to help them navigate the new terrain. We created three tracks – Survive, Grow and Thrive and offered a virtual executive development program focused on leadership and communication, finance, sales and marketing, operations, and business strategy, and we have now supported 400 WBEs through 2 cohorts.. We’ll be hosting our third cohort this fall..
(CS): That sounds like a great program. How do women get involved?
(AG): That is just one of the benefits of certification. Women who certify their business through WBENC get access to special programs like this and access to supplier diversity and procurement executives at major corporations ranging from tech innovators like Facebook and Google to leading retailers like Walmart, and state, local, and federal governments. Also, they get priceless networking and mentorship opportunities.
(CS): Small business entrepreneurs have a busy schedule. Is it hard to get certified?
(AG): The procurement departments at these large corporations depend on us to be a trusted source for certification. Therefore, we take our job as the leading certifying of women-owned businesses seriously. The most time-consuming part of the process is gathering the proper documents, but we have team members across the country available to assist.
(CS): This month is Women’s History Month. Do you have anything special planned?
(AG): Yes, we do. We’ve put together a full month of inspiring and educational programming. We are calling the program Focus on the Future, and it builds off many of our innovative and leading programs for women entrepreneurs and supplier diversity professionals. The goal is to help our constituents get through these challenging times and come out stronger. We are also continuing our #BuyWomenOwned public awareness campaign to increase consumer support for women-owned businesses.
Melinda Gates once said, “What I learn from talking to so many women around the world: If you can empower them with the right things and the right tools, they can lift up their family. And that ultimately lifts up their community and their society.”
The right tools are at your fingertips.
Coupa incorporates equity and inclusion into all aspects of our work. We are proud to partner with Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) to help diverse women-owned businesses grow.