Do women business owners who work in male-dominated fields face unique obstacles? A new survey by Square and Thumbtack—conducted in honor of Women’s History Month 2019 to better understand the gender stereotypes women face, their susceptibility to the wage gap and the unique support system that female small business owners have created to encourage and support each other—says yes.
According to the survey of more than 900 female small business owners across the U.S., nearly half (48 percent) of women business owners in male-dominated industries have had their expertise questioned on the job because of their gender, making them 10 times more likely than men to face this kind of stereotyping. That number increases for black women business owners—58 percent of whom felt their expertise had been questioned because of their race and gender.
“There was a time when I hid behind my email signature, ‘L.R. Hanke,’ and never used my face on marketing materials. Upon learning that I am a black, female roofer, I’ve had clients refuse to shake my hand, dismiss me entirely, even shut doors in my face,” says Letitia Hanke, who owns her own roofing company based in Santa Rosa, California.
Despite these hurdles, the majority of women small business owners feel that by being their own boss, they are less susceptible to workplace discrimination and the gender pay gap. By working for themselves, 54 percent of the women surveyed say they feel less susceptible to the gender pay gap and 58 percent report that they’re less likely to experience workplace discrimination.
Additionally, in the face of these challenges, female small business owners are banding together to support one another. In fact, 69 percent of women say it is personally important to them to support other small businesses owned and operated by women, and 40 percent of women reported having a network of female small business owners to turn to for business-related advice.
“I was tired of dealing with the discrimination and instead decided to use my unique perspective to my advantage. From the moment I began to embrace this by using my full name, Letitia, and my face on everything, my business grew. And it has continued to grow ever since,” says Letitia.
“We are now part of a tribe we didn’t know existed before we started our business,” says Amy Wall, a handywoman based in Washington, DC. “Women from all around the country now refer us or seek us out for projects because they want to support a small business run by two women. It’s unbelievable to see women we don’t even know driving our business forward.”
The survey also reveals that women business owners feel most supported by their local government in Washington, DC, followed by Chicago and Houston. But overall, only 21 percent of women business owners feel that their local government does enough to support businesses owned and operated by women.
For the complete survey results and methodology, visit www.thumbtack.com/blog/Build-Her-Up.