Women’s History Month represents a wonderful moment to celebrate women’s progress but it’s also a time to acknowledge the unique challenges women are facing this year.
Even before the pandemic, gender imbalance in the workforce manifested itself in problems
such as the wealth and wage gaps; the lack of female representation in the c-suite; and the lack of VC funding for female entrepreneurs. In addition, women have long navigated the tension between meaningful, gainful employment and caregiving responsibilities, of which they bear the brunt. But the economic downturn spurred by COVID-19 has made the situation much harder for women. The pandemic has pushed women out of the workforce in unprecedented numbers, and, as the New York Times observes, “leaving the workforce, even under the most dire circumstances, tends to be a one-way street.”
This “She-cession”, as some are dubbing it, has exacerbated the burdens placed on women and tipped the ‘caregiving/working’ balance from barely sustainable to practically impossible.
Once again, women have been disappointed in the lack of support from the private and public sectors. And they are utilizing their own ingenuity to fill in for the [huge] societal gaps.
In particular, women have been turning to microentrepreneurship when traditional employment and government fail them. And microentrepreneurship tends to work: “The relatively low start-up costs of microenterprises allows women to build an asset that in turn can be used to generate a safety net of personal wealth for the entire family.” Microentrepreneurship gives women an opportunity to create their own upward mobility by leveraging their skills, creativity and hard work into their own businesses.
From gifted artists creating custom paintings from their home studios; to accomplished designers helping declutter and organize their neighbors’ homes; to fitness experts tailoring workouts to postpartum mothers who can’t make it to the gym, women are taking the extensive talents and skills they’ve honed, and they are starting home-based, micro-businesses that serve their local communities.
Left to right: Lauren K. of Willow Creek Financial Services, Britney W. of Copper Gate Gifting and Elif E. of Bohemian Baklava.
But microentrepreneurship on it’s own isn’t enough. Home-based business owners lack the support and infrastructure needed to help them grow their businesses. And our economy is nearly blind to the extensive activity of home-businesses. They can’t easily connect with their potential customers: the process for finding local, home-based businesses is inefficient. These businesses aren’t on Google or Yelp. They can only be found through word-of-mouth or by combing through social media.
Like the women around us, we are problem-solvers, and we’re on our way to solving this problem. We’ve built West Tenth to address this gap: our app allows home-based entrepreneurs the opportunity to build a virtual storefront and interact with their community, and we provide education to help their businesses succeed. At a time when 25% of women small business owners have closed, West Tenth provides an essential tool for women to start and keep their business running.
The marketplace needs a better place to support women starting and running their own companies from home, and a better place for communities to access those businesses. West Tenth is that place. To the millions of the creative, competent women who find themselves outside the traditional workforce, we say: welcome. You can have your cake and eat it, too. In fact, we know some talented home bakers who will make one for you.