Key findings from 2018 Report: The Landscape for Utah Businesses Owned by Women and People of Color
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
In 2018, the Sorenson Impact Center conducted a landscape analysis about the challenges and opportunities facing women and people of color who own businesses in Utah. This report built the foundation for Project DEEP, and its insights still guide much of the ecosystem work here in Utah.
Key takeaways from the report include:
The cultural construction and “industry of entrepreneurship” in the state of Utah are perceived as predominantly male. “Entrepreneurship has been linked to personality traits stereotypically associated with men and masculinity, such as aggressiveness, leadership and dominance, risk-taking, and independence...in Utah entrepreneurship has a certain culture around it, one that is characteristically very masculine, e.g., competitive, isolatory, and strenuous. Women, on the other hand, are often more focused on or concerned with adding value, working collectively, and working on impact-focused ventures.”
Utah women’s experience with the labor market and entrepreneurship is often connected to gendered family demands, choices, or defaults. “The data demonstrates several important aspects of the female experience in Utah. Women in Utah are: 1) less likely to participate in the workforce, 2) more likely to marry young, 3) more likely to give birth at a young age, 4) more likely to have children, 5) more likely to support large families and 6) have very limited access to childcare of any quality.”
Many business owners who are people of color in Utah experience additional demands on their time and resources. “Beyond the difficulties already mentioned, many business owners who are people of color, particularly New Americans, support immediate and extended families outside of the United States...They are also predominantly in industries... like food service, retail trade, and construction, [that] are also highly competitive and less lucrative than other, white-dominated, industries.”
Previous experiences with discrimination can impact the willingness of candidates of color to become entrepreneurs. “For certain racial groups, socio‐historical experiences and shared knowledge of inequalities may influence individual behaviour through increasing discouragement toward important opportunities and entrepreneurial tasks...A perception of systematic disenfranchisement means fewer people of color feel their efforts will be enough to overcome the institutional inertia that has disadvantaged them or other members of their community.
Few business owners of color are realizing the ease of access to capital they would like. "A lot of say that they want to expand their business and get access to capital, but the microloans are not enough for them...The problem of access to capital [is] a larger issue of inadequate representation of female and people of color interests and perspectives at financial institutions saying... On the capital side, I think in Utah we feel [the difficulty of gaining access to capital] a little more acutely because the start-up community here is less diverse. Those holding the capital are not representative of the larger community seeking [funding].”
While many entrepreneurship support resources exist in Utah, they are often seen as fragmented, overwhelming, or challenging to find. “The issue … is that the resources in the startup community in general and ones that are focused specifically for women are overly fragmented, so people don’t often know what resources exist and how to find them.” She finds “It is a fragmented community. You go to one place to get help with your issue, [and] another place to do an afternoon training on term sheets. There are a lot of services that provide a broad range of trainings. But it still feels like it's a fragmented community, especially for women who aren’t part of the social fabric.”