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8 predictions for the state of women entrepreneurship this year

From narrowing the VC funding gap to making sustainability more mainstream, this is how women will change the face of business this year and beyond.

8 predictions for the state of women entrepreneurship this year
[Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images]

Who runs the world? Well, still, by and large, men. But gradually and strategically—women, if you pay attention to statistics. Over the past two decades, the number of women-owned businesses has grown 114%, compared to the 44% national growth rate for all new companies. As more women venture into entrepreneurship, they will tackle the laundry list of gaps women are continuing to change.

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The past year was pivotal in bringing important issues to light. From #MeToo to #TimesUp and the unprecedented number of women running for public office, it was a revolutionary year that touched every industry and group, says corporate futurist for Ford Motor Company, Sheryl Connelly. The shift in dynamics and speech isn’t just happening stateside, but globally. Connelly points out that women internationally are standing together to assert greater control of their rights, their safety, their health, and their success too. “Women aren’t finding opportunities in traditional corporate paths that meet their needs and, as such, are pioneering their own path to find new avenues to flex their skills,” she adds.

And hey, we’re just getting started. Here, female leaders predict entrepreneurism trends for 2019.

1. More women will develop side hustles

By definition, entrepreneurism takes on many forms: From five-person startups to 200-strong enterprises and one-woman shows, becoming your own boss doesn’t follow a check-sheet of requirements. Connelly shares even if women aren’t prepared to hire another person in their big idea, women are more likely to develop a side hustle than men in the next year. According to a Harris Poll, 75% of women reported seeking a side hustle for additional income (compared to 58% of men) and 28% of millennial women are already in the throes of juggling. And a juggle it is, since Connelly shares women spend more time with one half of their attention in a traditional corporate job and another half in their gig life, in large because they aren’t funded or embraced at the same rate as men. The more they—ahem—hustle though, the better those numbers will change in their favor in years to come.

2. Startups focused on improving the lives of women will continue to grow

Most of the world’s most profitable companies are those that solve real issues everyone faces. These pain points move numbers as people invest in anything and everything that works to make life easier, less expensive, or happier. Considering women are the largest consumers, those female founders who focus on struggles or difficulties within their sex are often among the most successful. General partner at Katalyst Ventures, Susan Choe predicts this year, more and more of the “FemTech” type of companies will start to emerge across all industries. From MTailor, StyleSeat, and The Real Real in fashion, to Modern Fertility, Kindbody, and Prelude Fertility in reproductive tech, it’s estimated this area of entrepreneurism is set to become a $50 billion market by 2025. “Women aren’t only leading an explosion of female-focused startups, they’re driving deep technological evolution by investing directly in tech enriching our lives—and more women are leading those projects,” she adds.

3. Successful female entrepreneurs will work to close the VC gap

Stomach this, if you can: Female founders received a mere 2% of venture capital dollars in 2017. And wait, it gets more sickening, as Connelly shares seed amounts in female-only founded startups since 2012 have remained between 4% to 5% of all seed dollars, while that percentage skyrockets for male-only founded teams, who reportedly raised between 83% to 85%. CEO of The Female Quotient, Shelley Zails notes these dismal numbers ignite trailblazers to clear the way for accelerated growth in 2019 and beyond. Even with fewer dollars being tossed into the ring, women provide the proof in the pudding, since research indicates women-owned companies deliver more than twice as much per dollar invested. In fact, Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank says 95% of his returns come from companies led by the ladies, Zalis shares.

This year, more and more women will work to close this outlandish gap by teaming together. This women-for-women prediction is one that all experts cited as impactful and on the rise, as successful female entrepreneurs are teaming together tirelessly to raise budding founders up the ladder. Connelly shares from Bumble Fund’s $1 million commitment to Rent the Runway’s Project Entrepreneur and All Raise, fueling female success is taking new heights.

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4. More millennial women will want to be part of female-led organizations

Cofounder and CEO of Wambi, Rebecca Metter says many female millennials working in corporate environments are feeling disengaged, constantly “mansplained,” and generally unsupported in their roles at large, predominately male organizations. This is why she predicts more women in this generation will be ready to break out of the predictability of their old positions and pursue new exciting ventures within startup communities. “There’s wisdom in the star power of the Girlboss brand: Young women are interested in entrepreneur culture,” she explains. “That said, they will look for organizations that reflect their values and are solving meaningful challenges. Millennial women want to work for organizations that empower them to exercise their entrepreneurial muscles, that support team members with flexibility and autonomy in their roles, and are on a meaningful mission—potentially even a social good mission.”

5. More women will take part in political activism

The CEO and founder of Unique Markets, Sonja Rasula says women prioritize their leadership and their contribution differently than men in similar executive roles. She explains being a community pillar and creating a positive social impact tends to be more important to female entrepreneurs. She believes, because of this, more women business owners will take part in activism and politics this year in anticipation for the 2020 election. “Whether that be endorsing politicians or speaking up about issues to their audiences from healthcare to immigration to education, there is a general consensus among the female entrepreneurs that I know, that when women are in office, things are better not just for the entire population but specifically for women,” she continues. “Since this could lead to increased access to healthcare, more funding, and better maternity benefits, I predict more female entrepreneurs will go into politics and publicly support female politicians.”

6. More women will become board members

“Beside the fact that studies have shown that diverse boards have lower volatility and better performance, often M&As happen when senior executives can relate and see themselves working with executives from the teams they acquire,” Choe explains. This gets to one of the most vital two-word mantras of doing businesses: Relationships matter.

And when boards offer a wide range of expertise and wisdom—from women, minorities, and so on—they will attract companies who value diversity. With more females taking their well-earned and long-overdue seat at the table, Choe says this shift in leadership for publicly traded companies will translate into more strategic partnerships for women-funded companies.

7. Minority women will continue to launch businesses at record levels

According to American Express’s 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report, Latina female founders have grown by 172%, while black founders have grown by 164%. This double-digit soaring isn’t stopping anytime soon, according to Zalis, who predicts this trend will only become more impressive. “More women and minorities are writing their own rules of work, and bringing products and services that will help to fill the wants and needs of other women, who influence more than 85% of all purchasing decisions,” she shares. Tapping into these various markets by speaking the language firsthand and understanding the specific needs of marginalized communities gives these women a unique perspective and an incredible opportunity for success.

8. Women will make sustainability more mainstream

It’s taken time—and lots of conversations—but Tessa Mansfield, chief creative officer at trends intelligence company Stylus, says consumers globally are waking up to the issue of sustainability. She explains while many of the bigger household names have been slow to respond, smaller, increasingly female-led businesses are leading the charge for change. “In 2019 we believe sustainability will truly go mainstream, particularly in industries like fashion and textiles where female entrepreneurs will empower like-minded women to join the cause and drive sustainable material innovation,” she continues.

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Pioneers like Eva Kruse–the chief executives and president of the Global Fashion Agenda and its flagship event, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit–are working to unite industry leaders to set a common agenda to save our planet. This includes Natsai Audrey Chieza, who Mansfield shares has spent eight years working in the rapidly emerging field of biodesign before founding Faber Futures. This research lab explores methods of working with bacteria, fungi, and algae to develop sustainable materials, products, and services.

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