Woman-owned small businesses have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and corresponding shutdown, and are now less likely to project revenue, investment or staffing growth, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported late Wednesday.

Female-owned small businesses are more likely than male-owned small businesses to report a significant decline in the overall health of their business since the start of the pandemic and are less likely to report that they have added staff, according to the chamber, which is vigorously lobbying for a third coronavirus relief stimulus package for businesses.

“We cannot allow this pandemic to set back a generation of entrepreneurial women,” said Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Congress’s inability to provide relief to America’s small business owners is unconscionable and inexcusable.”

Clark’s comments come as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, plan to restart negotiations on the stimulus package today after a three-week standstill.

The two sides are starting negotiations far apart. House Democrats passed a massive $3.4 trillion coronavirus package in May, but it was rejected by Republicans in the White House and the Senate. Senate Republicans countered with a $1.1 trillion package, including a $10 billion boost for the U.S. Postal Service.

While Meadows is pushing for a slimmed down bill overall, Pelosi has signaled she is only willing to drop the price tag for the Democrats’ package by $1 trillion if Republicans boost their package by $1 trillion.

That leaves all businesses, including those started and run by women, in the lurch, Clark said. “We need to help struggling small businesses safely reopen and stay open so they can continue to grow and create jobs in their local communities.

“The health and existence of small businesses is essential to the economic recovery of our nation,” she added.

The Chamber of Commerce’s survey of 1,000 women’s businesses found that female-owned small businesses also lag behind when assessing investment plans, revenue projections and staffing plans for the coming year—evidence that they do not anticipate recovering as quickly as their male counterparts. Before the pandemic began, 67% of male-owned businesses ranked the overall health of their business as “somewhat or very good,” while only 60% of female-owned businesses did. 

By July 2020, that number had fallen 13 points to 47% of female-owned businesses who ranked their business as “somewhat or very good,” while the number of male business owners reported a decrease of only 5 percentage points to 62%.

Meanwhile, the number of female-owned and male-owned businesses that had increased staff in the past year was nearly even back in January (18% and 17% respectively). Now there’s a 10-point gap, with only 15% of women-owned businesses in July reporting an increase in employees over the previous 12 months when 25% of male-owned businesses did. 

At the beginning of the year, there was little to no statistical difference between female- and male-owned small businesses when the owners were asked about their future plans and business expectations.

But six months later, female-owned small businesses now lag behind male-owned small companies in all three forward-looking measures of the poll: investment plans, revenue projections and staffing expectations. 

  • Plans to invest: Some 32% of female-owned small businesses said they planned to increase investments in their business in the coming year, similar to male-owned businesses at 28%, according to their January answers. In July, that number remained unchanged for female owners while the number of male owners who expected to increase investments in their businesses rose from 11% to 39%.
  • Projected revenues: In January, 63% of female-owned businesses predicted their revenues would increase in the coming year, comparable to male-owned businesses (59%). In July, that number had fallen 14% for female owners to 49%, while male owners’ reporting remained unchanged at 57%.
  • Staffing expectations: In January, 31% of female-owned businesses said they expected to increase the size of their staff in the coming year, nearly the same as male-owned businesses (30%). In July, there was a 12-point difference between female owners (24%) and male owners (36%). 

Maxine Turner, the founder of Cuisine Unlimited, a 40-year-old catering company in Salt Lake City, said she has made it through ups and downs in the past, but doesn’t see surviving Covid-19 without additional financial assistance from the U.S. government, according to the Chamber of Commerce report.

“We desperately need another boost from the Paycheck Protection Program,” Turner said. “Time is of the essence as so many of us have exhausted our funds and have no additional resources to keep our companies afloat until this pandemic is under control.”