While men and women are making strides and mixing it up in terms of the types of businesses and careers they are pursuing, it's still not a level playing field out there. When it comes to wages and start-up funding, women still lag behind.
Since the 1963 Equal Pay Act, the wage gap has closed at an excruciatingly slow rate of just over a third of a penny per year, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Women with permanent, full-time jobs in 1963 earned an average 59 cents for each dollar made by men. Thirty-seven years later, in 2000, women earned 73 cents for each male dollar. For a complete look at figures from 1960 to 2000, check out this link for the National Committee on Pay Equity.
When it comes to business funding, there may be a similar story. Getting a business off the ground, as every entrepreneur knows, can take a substantial amount of cash. Though women are snagging larger portions of venture capital dollars every year, they still lag behind their male counterparts.
That's why a 2-year-old national nonprofit group called Springboard Enterprises has dedicated itself to connecting women entrepreneurs with potential investors. At the forums Springboard sponsors, women entrepreneurs get a chance to meet investors up close and pitch their companies in hopes of getting funded.
Because data is scarce, determining whether women entrepreneurs face discrimination when it comes to lending and other financing practices is tough. At the moment, only loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration report race and gender data.
That could change. The Access and Openness in Small Business Lending Act of 2001, introduced in November 2001, would force banks to collect race and gender information from their small-business borrowers, just as they do from consumers.
While that bill awaits passage, women are their own best advocates. Yes, gender is probably a factor in doing business, but woman or man, the bottom line for your business is hard work and persistence. And that's something that crosses gender lines--and makes success that much sweeter.