Womenomics: COVID-19’s Impact on 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses Alumni

16 JUN 2021

COVID-19 disrupted the world. It sparked the sharpest global recession in recent history, upended personal and professional lives, and will forever change the way we operate. .

We checked in with the global cohort of women who have participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses programs since inception, to understand their experiences through these unprecedented times. We found that these alumni were deeply affected by COVID-19, as was the rest of the world. Our key observations include:

  • Our 10KW and 10KSB women alumni experienced challenges as small business leaders, regardless of region, industry, or experience. Nearly all graduate respondents experienced some difficulty in running their businesses.
  • The most significant challenge reported was financial, with ~60% of respondents reporting declines in revenues. A close second was related to caregiving and responsibility for running families and businesses, as many entrepreneurs had to spread their time, energy, and focus.
  • COVID-19 created disruptions that led to booms in some sectors and busts in others. Women entrepreneurs are overrepresented in the industries most adversely impacted by COVID-19 – namely recreation, services, and trade – and as such, women have borne the brunt of the busts, while missing out on most of the booms.
  • In response to COVID-19, 70% of alumni pivoted or changed their business model in ways that many expect will be permanent. Greater digital adoption was a major trend, and 70% reported that the shift in digital solutions and working patterns during the pandemic has made leading a business easier or more accessible as women entrepreneurs.
  • Despite the challenges, 78% remained optimistic in their future business prospects. The majority of respondents felt that the pandemic did not meaningfully alter their business outlooks, neither in performance nor in their abilities to lead. About 86% of respondents said they were still doing business, and 81% reported that the 10KW and 10KSB programs had been useful for adapting to COVID-19 and positioning for future growth. Just as important, we found that confidence deteriorated for 34% of the graduates relative to pre-pandemic levels, a potentially concerning shift especially with respect to growth potential.
  • The global focus on environmental, social, and governance issues is a priority for smaller businesses. About 78% cited the importance of having a “purpose beyond profit.” Still, COVID-19 introduced uncertainty around community involvement of business.
  • The evidence from the COVID-19 experience is clear: women are resilient and are great business leaders. But in order for them to thrive, we must not let the pandemic undo decades of progress towards economic gender equity. Empowering women is no longer an option, it is an economic and business imperative. At Goldman Sachs, we believe that when women do better, we all do better

Read the full report and the global fact sheets focused on Brazil, Africa, and China.

For more information listen to our podcast From Crisis to Confidence: How Women Entrepreneurs Fared During the Pandemic.

Methodology: The data was collected from a survey of 1,157 women Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses participants conducted in February and March 2021. The survey included small business owners from 37 countries.