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The economy is booming, capital spending is up, and business optimism indexes are setting records. Confidence in general may be high, but are women business owners and executives as upbeat? Women leaders are a vital and growing part of the business community, and Key4Women believes it is essential to understand their perspectives.

In September 2018, we conducted a survey of women who either share or have primary responsibility for making high-level financial or other strategic decisions for their companies. We asked them about their confidence in their business and financial health, their outlook for the future, ways in which they deal with obstacles, gender parity, and much more. There’s plenty of good news, and there’s some not-so-good news in terms of bias and barriers. Importantly, this report also addresses actionable steps that women can take to deal with these challenges.

Key Takeaways

  • 71% of women business owners are highly optimistic that they will achieve their goals in the next 12 months
  • 3 in 4 women business owners are highly optimistic about what lies ahead

Most women business leaders see a bright future ahead...

The vast majority of the women surveyed have an extremely positive outlook for their businesses: 71% said they are highly optimistic that they will achieve their goals as a business owner/executive in the next 12 months. Among millennial women, confidence is even higher, with three in four (76%) saying they are highly optimistic about what lies ahead.

95% of women business owners in our survey said they plan to expand their businesses over the next two years.

...and plan to grow their businesses

That high degree of optimism translates into growth. A remarkable 95% of women business owners in our survey said they plan to expand their businesses over the next two years. Three-fourths of those who are seeking to grow expect to do so over the next 12 months.

Women leaders know how to get the job done

To be successful, business owners and executives must be skilled in a variety of critical functions. Women business owners and executives are very or extremely confident in their ability to succeed in the most challenging parts of business leadership — the ones that are essential for their businesses to thrive.

Only 40% of the women business leaders surveyed said they would speak with their financial advisor about their business worries.

Confidence in personal and business wellness

It’s a widely held belief that women are not sure of themselves when it comes to financial matters. Our survey found that’s not the case for our respondents: Almost two-thirds said they are highly confident in their personal financial futures and in the financial health of their businesses. However, less than half of the business owners in our survey said they were highly confident they could maintain their lifestyle after selling their businesses.

But confidence isn’t certainty...

Despite such a high degree of confidence in the health of their businesses, 44% of women owners and executives always or often worry about business failure. The principle ways they address their concerns are by rolling up their sleeves and working harder (49%); focusing on what’s in their control (44%); and talking to a colleague, friend, or family member (43%). Seeking the advice of a financial professional, however, did not rank among the top three answers.

Two-thirds said they are highly confident in their personal financial futures and in the financial health of their businesses.

...and women still face barriers

Even with high degrees of confidence about their ability to achieve growth and obtain credit, women business leaders continue to face barriers to funding: Only 16% say they have no trouble securing financing. And for one in four women, either gender bias, cash flow hurdles, or insufficient collateral prevents them from accessing working capital to build scale.

Barriers to Funding. 28% Gender bias. 26% Cash flow hurdles. 25% Insufficient collateral.

8 in 10

women in business take action to mitigate gender barriers in business by working harder, networking with business women, joining business organizations, or starting their own businesses

The pervasive problem of gender bias

Unfortunately, gender bias remains the top challenge for women in business, especially when it comes to accessing the funding they need to build scale. Most women (65%) in our survey reported that they have faced gender-biased barriers to success at some point in their careers. Eight in ten women in business take action to mitigate gender barriers in business by working harder, networking with business women, joining business organizations, or starting their own businesses.

Overcoming barriers to your success

Our survey findings provide strong evidence that women business owners and executives are confident in their roles and optimistic about their futures. Still, significant obstacles to success exist, with gender bias the most prominent among them. That said, there are actionable steps that women leaders can take to get over these hurdles.

Problem

Steps to Take

Almost all women business leaders plan to grow their businesses, although 84% expect some difficulty in securing capital and 44% say they worry about business failure.

Surprisingly, only 40% of women owners/executives have sought a financial advisor’s help, even though 84% expect some difficulty in securing the capital they need for business. Advice from a financial advisor can help you determine the financing options available to achieve your goals. Whether it’s starting a business, expanding, or investing in equipment, a financial advisor can help identify the alternatives available to get what you need.

Only 44% of women business owners believe they could maintain their lifestyle after selling their business.

Work with a financial professional who specializes in helping develop an integrated plan to optimize business valuation and wealth management outcomes.

Women in business take action to mitigate gender barriers in business by working harder.

Working harder to achieve your goals is admirable, but it is not always sustainable or the only way for you to be successful. Over three in every four women business leaders believe that networking is an essential part of their business success.

Key4Women: Empowering women in business

Through advocacy, connections, and empowerment, Key4Women® supports the advancement of women in business. Established in 2005, Key4Women® provides a network and platform for women in business to:

  • Make meaningful connections.
  • Get involved with our local networking events.
  • Tap into capital to build and grow their businesses.
  • Get customized financial services and advice from a local Key4Women certified advisor, including integrated wealth management.
  • Access intellectual resources and articles on a variety of topics.
  • Connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Barriers to Funding. 28% Gender bias. 26% Cash flow hurdles. 25% Insufficient collateral.

For more information on the benefits of Key4Women® and to join, visit Key.com/women.

Disclosures

KeyBank is Member FDIC.