The Women’s Business Ownership Act (WBOA) of 1988 prohibited state laws that required women to secure a male relative as their co-signer on business loans. The definition of “male relative” could range from a woman’s husband to her own child. During the committee hearings, one woman testified that she needed her 17-year-old son as a co-signer but was otherwise not granted a loan based on gender alone.
This practice of requiring a co-signer did not end until 1988—a surprise to most women today. That was the same year I took a position as an audit officer at a bank after receiving my business degree from the University of Washington. I was qualified to review and audit bank’s documents, yet I wouldn’t have been able to secure a bank loan on the basis on my gender!
Let’s fast-forward to today and celebrate how this Act has changed women’s course of history in business.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the WBOA spurred exponential women’s entrepreneurial ownership and is the fastest entrepreneurship growth segment in the US. The Act also established Women’s Business Centers to provide mentorship and technical assistance dedicated to women. There is at least one such center in every state, with 60% in rural locations. Between 2007 to 2018, women entrepreneurs have grown by 58%. For Black women-owned businesses, the growth rate is 164%.
During COVID, over $2.7 million in funding was dedicated to creating innovative programs to address the specific needs of women, such as Women’s Business Center representatives meeting women in their kitchen or virtually.
The US Chamber of Commerce dedicated a virtual event featuring women of color entrepreneurs to celebrate Women’s History Month. Kisha Mays founded Just Fearless in Hong Kong to provide business development coaching for women. She launched the company when funding access for women was still a challenge. Her fearless attitude kept her going even in the face of temporary failures and converted them into her best lessons in life and business. Just Fearless is now an international company with seven-digit annual revenues.
Another outstanding woman entrepreneur featured in the virtual event was Betsy Fore. She founded Tiny Organics with a mission to shape baby and children’s food intake from sugar-based to savory food. Her “mission-driven” enterprise drove her to network and build an advisory board from the outset to access advice and capital. After raising over $20 million of funding in over a decade, her advice for women includes seeking out women-funding-women resources and to keep going until they gain traction to begin the domino effect of success.
Both Fore and Mays are women who are entrepreneurs, women of color, and are making history!