a female business owner working at a desk

Women’s History Month is a time when everyone can honor the legacy and impact of women. In celebration of this important time, our lens is on the vital role women play as entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

In fact, women started 49% of new businesses in the United States in 2021, up from just 28% in 2019. 

Extensia Financial’s Brianna Vaughan, CUDE, Executive Vice President, Operations points out, “Female business ownership is growing at a quicker rate than ever before, appearing to only gain more strength throughout the pandemic. This not only shows the ambition of women but also their increasing importance to the economy.”

Here we’ll reflect on the history of women-owned businesses in the U.S. and highlight some of the resources available to aid their growth. 

The History of Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S.

The first woman-owned business in the United States dates back to pre-Revolutionary War times. In 1739, Eliza Lucas Pinckney gained control over her family’s three plantation operations in South Carolina when she was just 16 years old after the passing of her mother and father. 

There was a similar pattern that ensued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as women would inherit businesses from their husbands as they passed away. However, the 20th century saw a distinct shift as women became more independent and direct with their entrepreneurial endeavors. 

This led seamlessly into the World War II era when women joined the workforce in droves, which ended up causing a large push for female entrepreneurship. 

A few decades later in 1988, a study assessed the state of women in business, leading to a report titled: “New Economic Realities: the Role of Women Entrepreneurs.” Following this report, Congress enacted H.R. 5050, the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, which protected women’s equitable access to capital, established Women’s Business Centers and created the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC). 

The Recent Years of Women-Owned Businesses

Taken from a 2020 report by the NWBC, women-owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses in the United States. This represents about 13 million businesses, employing 9.4 million workers, and generating nearly $2 billion in yearly revenue. 

However, even though males are still the majority owners of businesses in the country, gross receipts for women-owned employer firms saw more growth between 2012-2019 than male-owned equivalents – 51.9% growth for women compared to 34.2% for men. 

Plus, since the turn of the 21st century, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 114%

How Extensia Supports Women-Owned Businesses

It’s clear that the rate of women’s business ownership has benefited from H.R. 5050, which eradicated discriminatory lending practices against women. Prior to this, many states had laws that required women to have a male relative co-sign a business loan. 

Even still, only 27% of women seek external financing for their businesses. Additionally, women-founded startups get less than half the funding as startups founded by males, even though they generate 10% more income in a five-year period. 

Amy Miller, Extensia’s Credit Union Relationship Officer, says, “While there has been significant progress in recent decades, there is still a widespread funding gap that women business owners face today. At Extensia, we focus on equitable lending practices that grow businesses, create jobs and improve communities.” 

As the country’s best Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO), Extensia helps credit unions offer better service and more competitive rates on commercial real estate loan products. This translates into broader, richer support of business owners, regardless of gender. 


About Extensia Financial

Established in 1998 and headquartered in Simi Valley, CA, Extensia Financial is one of the most seasoned credit union service organizations (CUSO) focused on commercial real estate lending. For decades, we have partnered with credit unions across the country to offer competitive and collaborative CRE loans. We also uniquely support and guide our partners through the entire lifecycle of our loans. Extensia Financial is a proud member of the AVANA Family of Companies.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming an Extensia Financial partner.