March is Women’s History Month, and March 8th is International Women’s Day. We at the WBDC have lots to celebrate-the amazing progress women have made politically and economically and, of course, our 25th anniversary of serving over 65,000 women in the Chicago Metropolitan area.
25 years ago, less than 10% of U.S. businesses were women-owned. That dismal statistic was the impetus for Carol Dougal and I to launch the Women’s Business Development Center in 1986 to help women start and expand their businesses. It was a revolutionary concept back then, but we believed that women – many of them – wanted to be their own boss.
Today, Chicago is home to virtually thousands of women-owned businesses. Nationwide, more than 10 million businesses are owned by women, employing more than 12 million people and generating almost $2 trillion in sales.
One in 11 women is an entrepreneur and of those, tens of thousands are women of color. Even with the economic downturn, women-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of the business economy and still growing at twice the rate of all U.S. firms.
To celebrate this good news, for our 25th anniversary, the WBDC is featuring 25 pioneering, successful women who started their businesses about the same time we did, many with our help.
Progress has clearly been made, and women have proven they have and will continue to change the face and character of business. But the same challenges women business owners faced 25 years ago are still present – access to debt, equity and venture capital, access to business and contracting opportunities in the private and public sector, access to key resources and relationships.
There is so much more to do and “We Can Do It!” Stay tuned as we highlight some of the Chicago-area pioneers of women’s entrepreneurship.