If past experience is any indication, Saturday’s Republican presidential primary debate at Saint Anselm College won’t discuss the issues facing women in the workplace.We’re not talking about the misleading gender pay gap, but about the 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the country and the challenges they face right now.
Women-owned businesses account for more than 30 percent of all enterprises in the country, and they are growing faster than any other demographic. Between 1997 and 2014, the number of businesses in the U.S. increased by 47 percent. The number of women-owned firms increased by 68 percent – more than one and a half times the national average. Women entrepreneurs helped lead the country out of the Great Recession.
Legislators could accelerate the success of women-owned small businesses by addressing the overtaxation and overregulation that are preventing them from even greater success. A recent poll conducted by the Job Creators Network of over 400 small business owners finds that two-thirds of respondents say taxes threaten the viability of their businesses. Three in five say the same about regulations. As a result, just one in five respondents say they plan to hire new employees next year.
American businesses face the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, and compliance costs are two-thirds higher for small businesses because they don’t have the accounting or financial experts to handle the complexity of taxes. In the World Bank’s Doing Business report, the U.S. ranks number 53 among countries in the category “ease of paying taxes.”
And Competitive Enterprise Institute data shows the number of regulations published in the Federal Register has shot up from around 4,300 in 1993 to more than 90,000 in 2014. Small business owners are feeling the pinch: Complying with federal regulations costs small firms around $12,000 per employee.
Yet in the rare instances that policymakers or commentators raise women’s workplace issues it is to harp on the gender pay gap – the claim that women earn just 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. But this claim is disingenuous at best and downright fallacious at worst. It compares all of the women in the workforce against all the men in the workforce, without taking into account the different choices women make.
It doesn’t compare surgeons to surgeons, or accountants to accountants. It doesn’t consider the fact that more men choose to be engineers and more women choose to be social workers, or that more men care about climbing the career ladder, while more women want to spend time raising a family. New research conducted by the Independent Women’s Forum finds that women are willing to take a pay cut of between $5,000 and $10,000 if they are given more flexibility with work schedules. With all these things considered, the so-called pay gap virtually disappears.
In an attempt to highlight the real challenges facing women in the workplace, the Job Creators Network and the Independent Women’s Forum are holding a What Women Really Want To Talk About town hall meeting in Concord, New Hampshire on Friday, the day before the debate. It will feature several female business leaders, including local businesswoman Teresa Rosenberger, who will explain the challenges their small businesses face first hand, and will be moderated by CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover.
Increasingly, women’s issues and business issues are becoming intertwined to the point where it would be foolish to not to address them together. Women now make up a disproportionate amount of new business creation without the help of overbearing regulations regarding their pay. It’s past time for candidates to emphasize that such workplace regulations are the problem, not the solution.
Elaine Parker is chief marketing officer at the Job Creators Network. Sabrina Schaeffer is executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum.