International Women's Day

Women own 36 percent of all small businesses in the U.S., notes Forbes. And yet, while the number of women-owned businesses has seen record growth, these firms continue to face obstacles in accessing capital and markets. 

Despite government programs supporting women-owned businesses, women-owned businesses are “21 percent less likely to win government contracts,” according to a study released by Women Impacting Public Policy, a nonpartisan advocacy group that works to even the playing field for women-owned firms. 

March is Women’s History Month, and marks the perfect occasion to reflect on the needs of women business owners in the U.S., and how our government policies can better support those needs. 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange, and on March 8, we at Quantum Leaps are thrilled to join “A Celebration of Women Business Owners: History, Participation and Progress,” sponsored by WIPP and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). This public meeting will be conducted online, and it is free to join via a webcast. By honoring and acknowledging our past and what has worked, we can then look toward the future, and how everyone can grow by giving woman-owned businesses an equal place in the marketplace. 

Quantum Leaps serves at the vanguard of support for women-owned businesses internationally, from increased access to markets especially public procurements, vocalizing the need to have inclusive finance opportunities, to encouraging knowledge sharing and networking. Quantum Leaps’ four pillars of Knowledge Development, Advocacy, Capacity Building and Incubation strive to help women-owned businesses around the globe to find the resources and support they need to grow and thrive. This isn’t just about helping one subset of business owners. Studies have shown that women business owners greatly increase national GDP. 

“Greater participation of women in the labor force correlates with higher GDP growth. Households where women have more control over resources enjoy higher savings rates and increased spending on children’s health and education,” notes an international study released by Ernst & Young. 

Jennifer Bisceglie is the CEO of Quantum Leaps, and the past chairwoman of WIPP. 

“Women-owned business are an engine that drive our economy, and policies that support and encourage these firms generate more jobs, taxes and contributions that benefit all of us,” Bisceglie says. “I’m proud of the work WIPP and Quantum Leaps have done, and look forward to participating in this vital conference.” 

As delegates to the Women’s 20, an engagement committee for the G20, Bisceglie and Quantum Leap’s co-founder, Virginia Littlejohn, have the ability to represent these needs on an international stage. 

A Celebration of Women Business Owners: History, Participation and Progress
Wed, March 8, 2017, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST

Quantum Leaps, Inc. is a global accelerator for women's entrepreneurship based in Alexandria, Virginia. It works with governments, international institutions, and women’s business associations to promote women’s entrepreneurship as a means of driving quantifiable economic growth at the national, regional, and global levels.

Women’s Enterprise Development Interest within the New Administration

While Washington’s incoming administration has generated questions about its prioritization of women’s enterprise development, there have been a pair of high level personnel moves to spark optimism.

Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon has been nominated to lead the Small Business Administration (SBA) while Dina Habib Powell of Goldman Sachs and its 10,000 Women program is “assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives” where she will “build new efforts around entrepreneurship, small business growth and the global economic empowerment of women.”

Powell’s position is still fresh and we’ll be keeping an eye on her initiatives and counsel in future posts, but with McMahon's confirmation hearing having taken place on January 24th, there are some fresh findings there worth examining.

McMahon comes from what was originally a small business background, having founded and built the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. with her husband, which they grew into what is now a publicly traded stock with a market cap of $1.5 billion.

More recently, McMahon has cofounded and been the CEO the Women’s Leadership LIVE initiative, which strives to forge a community of women built to help women become leaders and build on professional success. Billed as “the Kindest Mogul you’ll ever meet” on the WLL site, McMahon has made the rounds with a promotional and mentoring tour where she speaks quite passionately as an advocate for women business owners as well as a direct and personal mentor and motivator to women business owners.

In terms of the confirmation hearings, perhaps most notably for those focused on women’s enterprise, there was an unsolicited offering early from McMahon on the role of women entrepreneurs:

“As I’ve stated, I’ve been very forthcoming in wanting women entrepreneurship to grow and continue to support that; its something very near and dear to my heart. I will continue that outreach and continue to mentor through the women’s centers as well.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen showed enthusiasm for this and quickly broke into some thoughts from a previous discussion she had with McMahon on the importance of federal contracting for small and medium enterprises and how 2016 had seen women owned business gain “access to 5%” of those contracts for the first time. McMahon called “bundling” of government contracts a potential area of concern for women or minority run businesses, as it simplifies the processes for federal agencies, but has the potential to freeze out otherwise worthy contractors.

Later in the hearing, when Sen. Mazie Hirono noted “I ask you to be a strong voice for women, should you be confirmed," McMahon replied “I want to be a strong advocate for women, for small businesses and minority in businesses and work with committee and members of congress to make sure that we have the right regulations to help our businesses grow.”

McMahon’s hearing went well by media accounts with Sen. Marco Rubio noting “I look forward to working with you when I anticipate you will be confirmed here fairly soon,” so it seems highly likely that she will indeed get the position.

While the new administration may stir controversy with some women's advocates, there is room for optimism on its women's entrepreneurial programs based on these specific appointees with their solid track records of focus on capacity building for women owned firms. 

We look forward to further examinations of the efforts put forth by both Linda McMahon and Dina Habib Powell in the future.

FutureForward Cognitive Computing Deep Dive with IBM in Washington D.C.

FutureForward and IBM hosted a Cognitive Computing Deep Dive on November 30th in downtown Washington D.C. at IBM’s offices. 

Bringing together a high profile collection of women CEO’s and tech staff from high growth women led firms, the information-packed deep dive went into how cognitive computing could create new business value for these women and their companies. The day included executive briefings by senior IBM experts on Watson and cognitive computing, roundtable discussions, and demos, including practical applications to jumpstart thinking on how to apply cognitive to high growth businesses.

Cognitive computing has been described as “analytics on steroids,” with cognitive business already changing the competitive landscape. New groundbreaking business models, products and services are entering the mainstream and beginning to change the way we live and work.

All participants got an introduction to Bluemix, IBM’s application development tool, which will allows analytics and technology personel to rapidly develop cognitive and mobile apps. Participants also received a free trial of the Bluemix tool.

Quantum Leaps’ and its FutureForward initiative looks forward to similar events in the future on the intersection of women, women led businesses and STEM, so watch this space as well as our twitter page for updates.

FutureForward is a multi-year platform of action-oriented research, thought leadership, knowledge-building forums, partnership development, awareness raising, advocacy and policymaking, designed to inspire women scientists and women in STEM to commercialize their research and to accelerate the number of women-led firms at the cutting edge of emerging and advanced technologies. Our goal is to make women equal partners in every aspect of science and innovation to create next generation game-changers that will transform the world. FutureForward is an initiative of Quantum Leaps, Inc.

Center for Global Development Updates UN Foundation Report on Women’s Economic Development

In 2013, The UN Foundation and ExxonMobil issued a groundbreaking report, A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Built on rigorous fact checking and a series of commissioned studies, the report classified women’s empowerment interventions into four tiers and then graded them by their ability to deliver measurable results to specific beneficiaries with their own unique contexts.

In November of 2016, a new report written by Mayra Buvinic and Megan O’Donnell for the Center for Global Development has updated the findings with more recent data — Revisiting What Works: Women, Economic Empowerment and Smart Design.