30 Years Later:
Women Business Owners Continue Fight for Equality

NAWBO puts a spotlight on the 30-year anniversary of The Women’s Business Ownership Act, H.R. 5050

As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of H.R. 5050 in 2018, it is important to remember the foresight and perseverance of the many women who advocated for passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act. The NAWBO members and their colleagues who helped to draft this landmark legislation and lobbied Congress to make it a reality were true visionaries. It is difficult to imagine the nation’s economy and culture today without the proliferation of women-owned businesses and the goods, services, jobs and other advancements that they and the women they empowered have created or driven since 1988.

Beth Marcello, PNC Director of Women's Business Development

In March, 2018, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) released “Spotlight on H.R. 5050: The Bill that Changed Everything for Women Business Owners.”  This white paper, sponsored by The PNC Financial Services Group, reflects on the provisions that transformed the course for women business owners and highlights the current areas for improved policy and better women involvement. The white paper includes anecdotes of NAWBO leaders who played a role in H.R. 5050, as well as assessments of the current status of women business owners from NAWBO leaders and luminaries in the women business owner community including SBA Administrator Linda McMahon and NWBC Chair Carla Harris. Right now, women own an estimated 11.6 million businesses employing nearly 9 million people and generating nearly $1.7 trillion in revenues.  Download the white paper »

Noteworthy sections of The Women’s Business Ownership Act included:

  • Erasing the need for a male relative or husband to co-sign a business loan
  • Establishing the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program
  • Creating the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)
  • Requiring the Census Bureau to include women-owned c-corporations, which expanded research beyond the self-employed and into bigger women-owned businesses.

“We need to stay engaged.  We are just as responsible as those who represent us,” says Kathleen Warnick, NAWBO national board chair. “We must offer our policymakers sound ideas to continue moving forward and help them create policies that nurture a prosperous environment for all women-owned businesses.”

“It seems incomprehensible today to think that just 30 years ago, simple acts of financial independence like obtaining business credit under your own name, were denied to our mothers and grandmothers,” says Beth Marcello, PNC director of Women’s Business Development. “As we pause to commemorate the 30th anniversary of H.R. 5050, we also recognize that the work is not done. At PNC, we’re fully committed to supporting women who own and run businesses, and to working with organizations like NAWBO to help overcome the barriers that remain.”

Opportunities for future engagement and policy include:

  • Expanding access to capital
  • Providing for research that assesses and meets the needs of women business owners
  • Targeting support for women of color and women in tech
  • Giving WBCs the tools to create more of an emphasis on business expansion
  • Providing an avenue for more women involvement in procurement.

“Business owners require tools to get their business up and running: resources, access to capital, counseling from business experts and their peers, as well as research that covers their demographic.  We must ensure that women are provided these tools just as much as their male counterparts,” according to Teresa Meares, NAWBO Institute for Entrepreneurial Development board chair.


It seems incomprehensible today to think that just 30 years ago, simple acts of financial independence like obtaining business credit under your own name, were denied to our mothers and grandmothers.

Beth Marcello



Founded in 1975, NAWBO is the unified voice of America's more than 11.6 million women-owned businesses representing the fastest growing segment of the economy. NAWBO is the only dues-based organization representing the interests of all women entrepreneurs across all industries.   NAWBO develops programs that help navigate women entrepreneurs through the various stages of their business growth.

To learn more, please visit www.nawbo.org.  

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