With unemployment rates still well over 9% nationally and poverty at an all-time high, I have been struggling since President Obama’s State of the Union Address this week to understand how the president’s plan is going to create new and rewarding jobs, especially for those hit hardest by the recession – women and women of color.
The tax write offs for small business that the president mentioned will have the greatest benefits for the small businesses with the highest revenues. These tax write offs will have little impact on microenterprises, which by definition require relatively little capital investment.
Women’s Initiative graduates created and retained 3,818 jobs in the Bay Area in 2010 alone. This is an impressive number but microenterprise organizations like Women’s Initiative are only serving a fraction of their potential target population because of lack of funding and government support.
In fact, an investment in microenterprise development would address some of the other issues the president spoke about, including the need for public investments in R&D and clean transportation and energy technologies in order to compete with other nations such as India and China. Small firms in the US produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms; these patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited. In addition, the majority of Women’s Initiative graduates start “green” businesses with innovative approaches to eliminating pollution and keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum.
Finally, the president spoke about our need for educational reform to meet the growing demand for a college educated workforce. The most powerful determinants of a child’s educational success are the mother’s employment status and income. There are millions of low-income mothers who dream of starting a business today so she can support her family and provide a safe, secure future for her children.
Everyone deserves a Ms. Waters, the principle the president told us the students thanked for showing them that they were smart and could make it. The women entrepreneurs who come to Women’s Initiative build lasting connections to a network of supportive women who show them that they are smart and can make it and 70% are still in business five years after training.
A plan to win the future must include microenterprise development for women and women of color and the support they need to win a future for themselves, their families, and communities.