Factors Influencing the Growth of Women-Owned Businesses: Risk Tolerance, Motivations, Expectations, Culture


Report by the National Women’s Business Council, 30 October 2013

This report draws from existing literature as well as focus groups and interviews with women entrepreneurs from three US cities. The most common risks identified were business investments and finances; family finances personal time; and reputation for women with children.

External advisors were recognized as a source of mitigating risk. For many women-entrepreneurs, growth was not a central focus at start up, however as experience increased so did growth intentions. Top motivating factors included flexibility, work-life balance, and independence. Sociocultural barriers pertaining to women’s roles and responsibilities as well as gender discrimination for women in less traditional sectors influence risk taking, motivations, and expectations.

Solutions included acknowledging the multiple roles that women play and their desire to perform in all areas, focus of risk management and positioning as part of growth planning, encourage use of resources and tools to support business growth, and develop resources that focus on expansion in addition to start up and stabilization such as second-stage business assessments and expansion planning.