In a polarizing election cycle that has broken the mold for what we can expect from presidential campaigns, there has been one constant: Women voters are playing a big role in choosing our next president. And as a recent Morning Consult poll shows, their votes are still very much up for grabs. But what will it take to sway the 21 percent of women who have yet to pledge support for a particular candidate?
Today, women not only outnumber men in terms of population, we’re also more likely to vote. Women are likelier than ever to hold a bachelor’s degree, and more and more women are starting small businesses, creating local jobs and injecting money into their communities. There are nearly 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States, according the National Women’s Business Council, an increase of nearly 30 percent since 2007. Candidates would do well to address concerns raised by the influential, growing demographic of women entrepreneurs. Perhaps the single greatest hurdle they face in business is navigating a complex, alienating and frustratingly expensive federal regulatory process.
Too many of the rules issued by government agencies were written without sufficient input from the public — much less from women business owners themselves, even though small businesses pay a much greater proportional share of time and money to achieve regulatory compliance. In fact, the Government Accountability Office found that about 35 percent of major regulations are issued without a public comment period.
The current, muddled state of Washington rulemaking is a drag on our economy. Small firms with fewer than 50 employees, which make up the majority of women-owned businesses, pay an average of 17 percent more than the average firm per employee in regulatory costs, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Specifically, the annual regulatory cost burden comes in at roughly $34,671 per employee for manufacturers with fewer than 50 employees.
As regulatory compliance costs escalate, female entrepreneurs are looking for solutions to ensure that their companies can thrive and continue creating jobs. What they need to hear is that candidates understand where they’re coming from and what they’re dealing with, and that they will prioritize much-needed regulatory reforms to make Washington’s rulemaking process more transparent, inclusive and flexible.
As two women who have owned small businesses and worked directly with small firms across the country, we vote with the small business economy in mind. Whether or not political candidates understand the power government regulations have in making or breaking a company’s ability to get off the ground is something we factor in when casting our own votes.
Our best advice for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is that as they continue to court the votes of women, they should remember that a one-size-fits-all approach to governing is no longer sufficient. It fails to consider the growing nuances of our economic reality, as well as the increasing diversity of its players. Supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem means making sure that small-business owners, and specifically female business owners, have a seat at the table. It means reforming the federal regulatory process to make it fair for everyone.
Karen Kerrigan is president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, and for nearly 25 years has worked to foster U.S. entrepreneurship and small-business growth.
Ann Sullivan is the president of Madison Services Group Inc., a woman-owned company that provides government relations and business development services to corporate and nonprofit clients. She currently represents the largest national association of women business owners and women in business, Women Impacting Public Policy.