For the better part of two decades, WIPP championed the effort to help bring women into the lucrative federal market. As many of you know, we accomplished much of what we set out to do with the addition of sole source authority. Since then, however, WIPP’s team in Washington has focused on a statistic that kept repeating in our brains: women receive only $1 out of every $23 that is being loaned to small businesses. How was that possible?
For months WIPP devoted time to researching the landscape of business finance, capital access, and small business lending. What we found was that there are many policy ideas about how to stimulate lending to women – ultimately growing the economy because we all know the economic impact of women-owned businesses.
But we have a long way to go. In 2013, more than two in three loan applications for women-owned firms were denied. WIPP’s annual membership survey regularly finds that women must make multiple attempts to secure bank loans or lines of credit – with a full 40% never succeeding. All this despite women making up one-third of business owners, generating more than $1 trillion annually in receipts, and growing at 1.5 times the rate of average businesses.
The platform WIPP released today, Breaking the Bank: Women Entrepreneurs & the Need for Capital, will hopefully change that. The solutions span three main themes: changing the capital infrastructure, supporting small lending institutions, and strengthening government investment. The platform has four solutions that will change the capital infrastructure. For example, WIPP wants the government lending programs to consider FICO’s alternative credit scoring system. This system modernizes the way credit is calculated to provide new opportunities for women entrepreneurs trying to obtain loans. WIPP also wants to support small lending institutions by pushing for an end to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to regulation. Removing these burdens on small banks will allow them to return their focus to lending.
Changes to government policies are an important part of the platform. WIPP believes a small business seat at the Securities & Exchange Commission will ensure that smaller women-owned firms have an advocate as the next generation of alternative lending, like CrowdFunding, is eventually put into place. Modernizing the Microloan Program, where women are the majority of loan recipients will also make a difference. Women owned small businesses are growing at 1.5 times the rate of average businesses, but they will never get off the ground if they cannot obtain early stage capital.
WIPP does not have a monopoly on good ideas but we have an important voice in public policy. Over time, we may add to this platform to ensure that all policy solutions improving access to funding for women entrepreneurs can become part of the debate in Washington. We ask you today to look through WIPP’s access to capital platform and share it with one other woman you know. If our successes in Washington in the 15 years WIPP has been an organization are any example, we will need a lot of women behind us to make this platform a reality.