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Op-Ed | When women small business owners thrive, we all thrive

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October was National Women’s Small Business Month, a time to celebrate the importance of women-owned businesses. But our commitment to supporting women small business owners should not stop after October 31st. 

Small businesses are the engine of New York City’s economy, and women play a critical role in kickstarting that engine.  New York City is home to approximately 359,000 women-owned businesses, comprising 32% of all the city’s businesses. It is imperative, both for the sake of hard-working women business owners and for the success of the larger economy, to support female entrepreneurship. In short, when women-owned small businesses succeed, the entire economy succeeds.

But being a small business owner is not always easy, especially for women of color like myself. As a Guyanese-American immigrant and one of the first in my family to earn an advanced college degree, I’ve had to overcome systemic barriers at every step toward becoming a successful businesswoman.

Through founding my psychological services company, Let’s Talk Psychological Wellness, P.C, I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges of starting a business. My years of being a practicing clinical psychologist could not prepare me for the challenges ahead. Starting out, I lacked a network of well-connected business mentors or formal business training, and I faced barriers due to my gender and ethnicity in the male-dominated business world. My story is unfortunately part of a larger trend that women of color face.

Women business owners deal with unique challenges, between balancing our businesses with childcare and other family obligations, and managing gender-based discrimination at every step in our careers. We do not look like the stereotypical face of the business world, yet we are essential to it – creating millions of jobs and fueling the economy.

The devastating impacts of the pandemic only exacerbated the systemic barriers that women entrepreneurs face. Recent research from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses found that 48% percent of women-owned small businesses are struggling financially due to the pandemic, compared to only 39% of male-owned small businesses. As our City looks toward recovery, investing in and supporting women-owned small businesses must be a priority.

We need to equip women business owners with practical tools for financial literacy and business know-how. We must nurture networks of women entrepreneurs and mentors across the nation. The pandemic cannot deal a final blow to the small business fabric of New York City. Now more than ever, we need to create good jobs, stimulate spending, and provide the services, culture, and entertainment that make our city great. These cannot exist without women-owned businesses.

A new month is here and National Women’s Small Business Month is over. That does not mean that our leaders’ commitment to the growth of female entrepreneurship should be over too. The success and future of New York City is dependent on it.

Dr. Nathilee Caldeira is the founder and director of Let’s Talk Psychological Wellness, P.C. and a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.

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