More than a quarter of women business owners lack connection to a peer support network or mentorship, depriving them of capital, doors to technology and other benefits, according to a survey by Wilmington Trust and C200, a global organization for women business leaders.

The survey of more than 1,000 business owners found that almost twice as many women (26%) than men (14%) cited a lack of peer networks as a challenge to growing their business. For women who started their own business, 29% of women lacked peer mentorship versus just 14% of men; and of owners who inherited their business, 20% of women cited mentorship as a challenge, while only 11% of men did.

The survey, "Wilmington Trust Business Owners Outlook: The Power of the Pack," found that nearly as many men (33%) as women (35%) are unaware that women often encounter serious challenges in building and accessing peer networks. Conducted in February and March, the survey focused on business owners with more than $5 million in revenue.

“Having that peer network and, in many cases, a female-based network, is so helpful. In a time with so much uncertainty, it’s critical to be able to connect with someone who has walked in a leader’s shoes, experiencing the same lack of clarity, bounce ideas off them and gain inspiration,” said C200 CEO Carolyn Dolezal.

The survey found that obtaining capital was easier for men. Female entrepreneurs, it found, acquired only 61% of the capital they sought to start their own business, while men received 68% of their request. However, women who inherited their business did better. They obtained a larger proportion (69%) of funding than their male counterparts (59%).

But perceptions on access to capital differ between men and women. Twice as many women entrepreneurs (16%) as men (8%) felt that women will never be equal to men when it comes to accessing capital.

When it comes to using personal funds, the survey found that more men (43%) than women (31%) tapped into their personal assets to fund their business. 

The survey also found that family played an important role in many of the businesses. More than three quarters of respondents (79%) indicated that their business is fully family-run or majority family-run. But the survey found that women are far more likely than men to have a spouse involved with their business. Overall, it found that 50% of women and 39% of men have their spouse working alongside them.

Among owners who inherited their business, 61% of women have a spouse working with them versus 40% for men; for entrepreneurs, 46% of women have a spouse involved compared with 39% of men.

As for other family members, sons are more frequently involved in the business than daughters (65% versus 43%). Women business owners, however, are far more likely to involve daughters than male business owners are (56% vs. 38%).

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