Women Business Owners: Part One ... Clout
Women Business Owners: Part Two ... Credit
Women Business Owners: Part Three ... Technology
Women Business Owners: Part Five ... Capital
Women Business Owners: Part Six ... Capital
Women business owners are the pointpersons in cyberspace, not simply tag-alongs. The IBM Corporation commissioned a National Foundation for Women Business Owners, now the Center for Women's Business Research (CWBR), survey of nearly 800 women- and men-owned businesses across the US titled, "Embracing the Information Age: A Comparison of Women and Men Business Owners." The results of this survey reveal that women business owners are the pacesetters in utilizing the power of the World Wide Web in their enterprises.
"Women business owners are using technology to explore new business opportunities," observes Lois E. Haber, Chair of the NFWBO and President and Chief Executive Officer of Delaware Valley Financial Services, Inc. in Berwyn, PA. "The share of women business owners that have established a home page for their business has tripled since last year -- 23% now have a home page, compared to 16% of men business owners. Furthermore, 17% of women business owners say that the most important reason for using new technology is to explore new strategies for growth, compared to 10% of men business owners."
"NFWBO’s research shows that women business owners will increase their investment in computer hardware and software in 1997 by 51% over last year’s investment," concludes Micki Napp, National Market Executive for Women-Owned Business, IBM Corporation. "IBM recognizes that women entrepreneurs lead the way in using the Internet as a powerful tool to pursue business strategies, evaluate competition, recruit qualified executives, and take their firms global."
Queried about the ways in which technology has become critical to their businesses, a higher percentage of women compared with men revealed it was assisting them in: responding to customers (39 versus 32 percent), accelerating product or service introductions (28 versus 23 percent), and improving their marketing effectiveness (24 versus 17 percent).
NFWBO Chair Haber emphasizes, "Women business owners appear to be more likely to explore the Internet’s opportunities than men business owners."
- 47 percent of women business owners subscribe to an online service, compared with 41 percent of men business owners;
- 51 percent of women business owners frequently use the Internet to communicate or send email, compared with 40 percent of men business owners;
- 22 percent of women business owners report frequent usage of the Internet to conduct research compared with 14 percent of men business owners; and
- 9 percent of women entrepreneurs compared with 3 percent of men business owners use the Internet to review business opportunities or make bids on contracts.
Women business owners are bullish about the inevitability and acceptance of electronic commerce ("e-commerce"). Forty percent of women business owners believe the Internet will be a reality for at least half of the nation’s businesses within three years compared with 34 percent of men business owners. Both men and women are incorporating more sophisticated computer systems into their business operations. For example, 29 percent report that they are now using local area networks (LANs), up from 13 percent just one year ago.
The findings of this third annual NFWBO survey are reinforced by complementary industry research. An authoritative presentation by Kathy Chin Leong, "Managing Change: Women Gaining Clout Online," InternetWeek, notes, "With women comprising more than 40 percent of the overall Internet community, savvy corporate executives are beginning to pay attention." Bernadette Tracy, president of NetSmart Research (New York) discovered in a recent survey that 90 percent of women Internet viewers are using the Internet with their work. Women are particularly attracted to Websites that are easy to navigate and logically designed reports Judy Neuman, Divisional Vice President of Interactive Marketing, Eddie Bauer Corporation (Seattle). "It’s not that women are unable to manage complex Web sites, but they want information fast, and they aren’t there to play around. They are extremely busy people with not a lot of time to spare."
This new frontier of the World Wide Web has emerged so quickly that traditional gender barriers never arose. This is indeed a level playing field, and women business owners appear to have some innate aptitudes that are propelling them into world-class performance. Mastery of the Internet is offering women business owners a formidable competitive advantage.
This column is based upon research conducted and published by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (now the Center for Women's Business Research), 1411 K Street, NW, Suite 1350, Washington, DC 20005-3407.
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Revised: April 16, 1998 TAF
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