The number of female entrepreneurs is growing at a rapid pace. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau and a report commissioned by American Express show that female entrepreneurship has spiked by 68% since 1997. In 2014, there were 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, up from 8.6 million in 2013. Women are throwing their hats into the entrepreneurial ring across a variety of industries, including technology firms. And not only are more women launching their own tech startups, they’re doing it a younger age. According to Business Week, from 2009 to 2014, the average age of women entrepreneurs founding tech companies has dropped, from 41 to 32.
Like their male counterparts, the primary constraint limiting the launch and growth of female-owned tech startups, is access to capital. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) says that statistically, women entrepreneurs have less access to financial capital than male entrepreneurs. Because of this limited access, the topic of grants for women to start or expand their businesses is a frequent topic of discussion.
While it’s true that the each year, the federal government gives out approximately $500 billion in grants, none of them are awarded specifically for the purpose of enabling women to start their own businesses. Of the $500 billion in grants awarded each year, only about five percent ($25 billion) is awarded directly to for-profit companies, the rest of the funds were awarded to states, local governments, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, universities, schools and school districts to carry out activities for the public good.
When the federal government does provide grants directly to businesses (women or otherwise), the majority of them are awarded to support very specific research and development activities, mostly related to technology, energy, healthcare, public safety and criminal justice, among others. But that does not mean that there aren’t business grants for women in technology.
Private organizations and foundations, corporations and governmental agencies put aside money every year so they can provide grants to help businesses support strategic priorities, create jobs and facilitate economic growth and development.
For women-owned technology firms, two exceptional federal grant programs to consider include the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) administers both the SBIR and STTR. Learn more about these business grants for women in technology by visiting the SBIR website. You can also visit Grants.gov to search for more small business grants. Click “Browse Eligibilities” and then “Small Businesses.” The SBA’s Office Women’s Business Ownership also has a host of resources to help uncover funding for women in technology. You can also check with your state or local economic development office to see if they offer any grants for women-owned technology firms.
Additionally, a growing number of private foundations and corporations are offering business grants for female entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in finding foundations and corporations that provide business grants for women in technology, Grants for Women is an excellent resource. Business Plan competitions can also be a source of funding to enable women to start a business. Visit BizPlanCompetitions for a complete list of open and upcoming funding opportunities.
If your aspirations are more globally focused, then check out the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) Annual Program Statement. The Development Innovation Ventures supports innovative approaches to solving worldwide problems including those of poor people all over the world. It aims to create a wide range of innovations including technologies that aim to improve the lives of the poor through creating new ideas. These include adapting existing solutions, creating new technologies, cost effective operations, and improving current solutions.
Persistence and creativity are the keys to success when looking for small business grants for women in technology. Grant programs typically have specific windows when applications for funding are accepted. Some programs only have one deadline a year, others have quarterly deadlines and still others will accept applications at any time. Be sure to do your homework and plan accordingly. And most important, don’t give up!