3 Key Tips to Empower Women-led Small Businesses 

3 Key Tips to Empower Women-led Small Businesses | CIO Women Magazine

By Melanie Jin, Executive Director of SMB Product and Portfolio, Intelligent Devices Group at Lenovo  

Small businesses continue to be on the rise and women are at the forefront. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration of Advocacy, women make up 43.2% of small business owners in the U.S. and the number is steadily growing. In a study from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), the team found that tech startups and scaleups in the UK with at least one woman co-founder in 2022 recorded a 24% increase in capital compared to 2021, indicating Women-led Small Businesses are driving growth. 

For all the progress women have achieved throughout recent years, there is still work to be done. Women lead more Fortune 500 companies now than ever before, however, only 8.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Furthermore, the gender wage gap persists, and disappointingly, true wage parity may be a century away.

How can women entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized business (SMB) owners combat this discrepancy while ensuring their business is set up for long-term success?  

Here are three essential ways Women-led Small Businesses can unlock their true potential and scale for success:  

1. Embracing digital tools into business

One of the best ways to gain new customers and raise awareness for your SMB is by engaging with consumers via social media. Leveraging ads on Facebook or uploading reels on Instagram can help generate growth as your business scales. Facebook and WeChat remain in the top five social networking sites based on monthly active users. Generally, social media provides an economical and user-friendly solution to disseminate information to diverse markets. In fact, according to a study conducted in Indonesia, 70% of respondents used social media for their micro and small enterprises (MSEs) because of its user-friendliness and effectiveness in reaching new audiences.  

3 Key Tips to Empower Women-led Small Businesses | CIO Women Magazine

When running a successful business of any size, it’s important to equip your team with high-performing technology. This allows the team to access digital tools as well as accomplish their goals more collaboratively and efficiently. Equitable tech solutions that are fit for purpose can help enhance the employee and customer experience. A durable, portable, and multi-functional laptop is a key productivity-driving tool or a twist form factor that supports flexible lifestyles by allowing users to glance and interact with key information on an e-Ink display without the need to open up the laptop.

When running a small business as a female, the digital tools and creative opportunities are endless, especially when it comes to putting your own stamp onto your growing company. Branding is particularly important, especially in the early stages as it can quickly help to establish you as a strong competitor in your industry.

Having connections with a Custom Label Company that can help to add your own branding onto your products will help massively when it comes to using social networks to promote your business too. As mentioned earlier, using social media to promote your female-led business can help you to grow an audience very quickly. With the correct branding elements in place, makes your company even more recognizable to your target audience.

Whether you’re planning a campaign at home, building a website after a business meetup, leading a team brainstorming from a coffee shop, or hosting an online webinar from your office, your laptop should make the job smoother. Employees are a company’s biggest asset and SMBs want to keep them enabled with the right technology such as AI-enabled PCs and accessories to help them stay on track. 

Everything-as-a-service solutions, such as Lenovo TruScale, can allow forward-thinking entrepreneurs to outsource their tech hardware, software, and support management tasks to as-a-service providers. Women-led Small Businesses should feel secure switching to this customizable subscription-based model because it aligns with their needs, provides IT budget optimization, and strives to maximize company and employee efficiency.

For example, SMBs can take the hassle and capital expense out of the equation, meaning for a monthly fee, organizations can have the tech and IT support they need. Deployment can be remote, reducing the burden for busy IT departments and allowing them to focus on the next wave of technology investments that will drive growth and provide a competitive advantage. 

2. Applying for small business grants for women and seeking diverse tech mentors

Research shows women business leaders are disproportionately affected by economic downturns when compared to male entrepreneurs. According to data from the annual Gender Index website based in the UK, under 17% of all active companies are led by women, but they only received less than 12% of 1.3 million investments made in UK firms in 2022. Business grants are a great way to fund business growth and can be a much more affordable alternative to business loans if you’re willing to spend time researching SMB options.

Luckily, there are grants specifically for women and/or minorities, like the Amber Grant or the Evolve Small Grant, to help equal the playing field. If a business loan is needed, it’s smart to start with a bank or credit union. For many entrepreneurs, I’d recommend starting with the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. There are programs coordinated through the SBA’s district offices that can help entrepreneurs get access to credit and capital as well as business training and counseling.  

3 Key Tips to Empower Women-led Small Businesses | CIO Women Magazine

Mentors can often direct you to programs that offer grants and loans for Women-led Small Businesses. Seeking industry leaders and experts in your areas of interest can help build credibility and expand your network, shedding light on new ideas and opportunities. Women make up only 28% of global tech leadership positions, further emphasizing the importance of seeking a driven yet understanding mentor to help women earlier in their careers fulfill their true potential in technology-related fields. A good mentor can help you avoid common mistakes on your entrepreneurial journey, help solve troublesome problems, offer valuable connections, and provide advice while navigating what can be an isolating industry for women.  

In addition to mentorship, sponsorship can also be a fulfilling form of advocacy to help women build confidence and strategically advance in their careers. A sponsor will spend their relationship capital and lend support while connecting those in their network with you for career opportunities, helping you secure potential funding for upcoming projects and more.

The harsh reality is that many Women-led Small Businesses face unequal challenges to their male counterparts when it comes to securing business financing and investments. Staying connected with communities that emphasize sponsorship through strong networks such as Cercle InterElles, Girlboss or World YWCA can not only provide women with capital to grow small businesses but also make introductions with powerful sponsors who can leverage their influence on your behalf. 

3. Building Equitable Processes

Women entrepreneurs own 1.2 million small employer firms employing 9.2 million people and play a key role in the U.S small business landscape. SMB owners should evaluate their recruitment, promotion, and talent-development systems to pledge that women with skills, experiences and qualifications comparable to those of their male colleagues have equal opportunities to be hired, recognized and promoted for achieving the same goals, all while earning identical pay for doing the same jobs.

A McKinsey study stated, “As workplace flexibility transforms from a nice-to-have for some employees to a crucial benefit for most, women continue to value it more. This is likely because they still carry out a disproportionate amount of childcare and household work.” Employers that are committed to helping mid-career women employees and rising stars succeed should consider investing in infrastructure and policies that support workplace flexibility help remove barriers to advancement and not force an unfair choice between family and work for women. 

3 Key Tips to Empower Women-led Small Businesses | CIO Women Magazine

While a company may leverage technology to maintain a specific business culture, it is pertinent to be mindful of the individuals that make up your collective, organizational culture and be responsive to their various needs. In fact, 72.4% of women with children under the age of 18 are employed in the U.S., which is much higher than the overall national population of women (50.4%). Even for mothers with children under the age of three, the labor participation rate is 63.8%.

Ensuring that your organization can accommodate an increasingly diverse workforce through equitable and inclusive practices will set any entrepreneur apart – especially women leaders. Some of the best ways to do this are through inclusive hiring practices, accessible technology solutions, and balanced work/life policies.  

There are many hurdles in business ownership that women entrepreneurs must overcome in order to reap the benefits of their labor. Business growth is not one size fits all and for marginalized or underrepresented communities, it can be difficult to receive the necessary resources to efficiently develop your company or organization.  

Determining the best way to grow your business starts with a strategic plan. SMB owners must also glean a solid understanding of how businesses evolve with consumer demands, adapt to industry changes and economic volatility, and differentiate themselves from the competition in order to scale. Women must be creative when sourcing and building a business plan that will work for them and their teams. By leveraging adaptable and revolutionary technology, Women-led Small Businesses have the potential to reach new heights and effectively scale for success.

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