From the May 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

What will the next 25 years hold for women business owners? We asked five business leaders for their forecasts.

Hedy Ratner

Co-president of Chicago-based Women's Business Development Center, the oldest and largest women's business assistance program helping women develop and expand their businesses

"[Women-owned businesses] will be well beyond the majority of businesses in this country. We [women] will be growing larger, more successful, more diverse businesses-diverse in terms of the people with whom we work, and in terms of the nature of the industries we will be in.

"Financial institutions' consciousness will be raised in terms of the imperative of investment in women-owned businesses. Government and the private sector will not look at women-owned businesses as a token involvement. Instead of being considered the dregs or smallest piece of the pie, [women-owned businesses] will be considered an integral part of both their market and their suppliers."

Susan Phillips Bari

President of the Washington, DC-based Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), a third-party certifier of women-owned businesses

"Businesses run by women face the same challenges as all small and midsized companies: access to capital, market position, managing growth, hiring and retaining employees. I don't see those factors changing over the next 25 years, as I've seen little change in the past 25.

"People live within a comfort zone. The major impediment women-owned businesses face is 'business as usual.' If no special effort is made to expand the universe of suppliers to include women- and minority-owned firms, progress will continue to limp along."

Nell Merlino

President and CEO of Count Me In, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that makes microloans to women-owned businesses

"Access to capital will continue to be a challenge, but should improve as more women run major companies, cities, countries and global financial institutions.

"The women-owned businesses will be more profitable, create more jobs and be great places to work. In 25 years, they will redefine success for women and men."

Muriel Siebert

President, CEO and chair of Women's Financial Network at Siebert, a New York City financial institution created for women and by women, offering mutual funds, stocks, bonds, college savings plans and retirement accounts

"[Women-owned businesses will be] larger, and [there will be] more of them. I do not believe that there is much of a difference between men and women when it comes to the challenges facing entrepreneurs. The biggest issue all entrepreneurs will have to face in the next 25 years is the rapid changes in technology. Entrepreneurs must stay ahead of technology or try to beat it."

Sheila Wellington

President of Catalyst, a New York City-based nonprofit research and advisory organization that works to advance women in business and their professions

"We can expect that [women-owned] businesses will be very successful in the future because of the flexible work environment they offer, which Catalyst has learned is a key retention tool. In our study 'The Next Generation of Leaders: Today's Professionals, Tomorrow's Leaders,' more than half of men and women reported that they would like to telecommute or work a compressed week. This generation of professionals is looking for flexible work arrangements that allow them to juggle the demands of their jobs and families. Women entrepreneurs are the leaders who will push open new doors and create the workplaces of tomorrow."

Entrepreneur Magazine's 25th Anniversary Issue
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Aliza Pilar Sherman is an Internet pioneer, e-entrepreneur, speaker and author of the book PowerTools for Women in Business: 10 Ways to Succeed in Life and Work.

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