Women and men who own small and mid-sized businesses are typically more aligned than they are different in their viewpoints about the economy. Now – more than ever – this is especially true as it relates to their optimism about running their businesses, according to PNC’s latest Economic Outlook Survey.

Survey results show that 69% of women and 73% of men are highly optimistic about their business prospects. But women appear to have the edge when it comes to confidence – 69% of women say they are confident about running their businesses compared to 57% of men. This confidence trend is consistent with last year’s survey responses as well. In 2022, 8 in 10 women business owners reported feeling very confident in their business success and nearly half credited their confidence to their own hard work and drive.

“It stands to reason that those same sentiments, together with a few key resources – professional networks, improved access to credit and the agility to navigate the economic landscape – all contribute to a level of confidence that really is driving this continued optimism this year,” said Beth Marcello, director of PNC Women’s Business Development.

Engaging in Networks

According to the survey, women-owned businesses are more likely than men-owned businesses to be engaged with groups such as the Small Business Administration, Chamber of Commerce, and other professional groups. In fact, eight in 10 women business owners (WBOs) participate in business development organizations – 83% compared to 64% of men.

“That’s not surprising, considering the power of a professional network,” said Marcello. “Women often credit the benefits of a strong network to winning new business and finding new and better ways of doing business. PNC’s relationship with organizations such as global nonprofit Coralus is an example of how PNC directly supports that network building.”

Decisions for the Economic Landscape

The optimism of WBOs comes through in the survey in specific areas of their enterprises, as 64% expect to see an increase in demand, 65% anticipate an increase in sales, and 56% predict an increase in profits in the next six months. A majority (57%) of WBOs also have plans to moderately increase the prices charged to their customers.

“These are just a few indicators of how women are thinking as they make decisions for their businesses heading into 2024,” Marcello said. “While some of their optimism may be tested as they are faced with continued high inflation and a potential recession, there is strong evidence that they are prepared.”

Seeking Credit

When PNC began surveying women business owners in 2014, men were more likely to seek credit in the near term than women. In 2022, the survey showed, for the first time, women overtaking men when considering a new loan or line of credit to support business growth. This trend continued in 2023 as the survey showed that 26% of women are likely to seek a near-term business loan or line of credit compared to 23% of men.

“While this data could simply reflect changes in the way women are conducting business, it’s evidence that fewer women are intimidated by the traditional process of gaining access to credit for their businesses,” Marcello said. “This is really encouraging, and I’m proud to say that PNC is contributing to this effort. In addition to our 5,000 PNC-Certified Women’s Business Advocates who have a passion for working with women financial decision makers, our partnership with Coralus has helped increased the number of U.S. entrepreneurs who receive access to the organization’s zero-interest loans.”

Marcello emphasizes that much of the progress that is beginning to shine through in PNC’s annual survey comes from decades of research and attention to the resources available to women who own businesses. PNC believes that providing support to entrepreneurs and making their access to credit more attainable are important steps toward the ongoing and continued success of their businesses as well as the economy overall.