Press Release

Survey Reveals Significant Differences Between Men and Women When it Comes to Launching and Operating a Business
San Francisco, CA | Oct 27, 2014

Most small business owners agree that starting, owning and running a business comes with its difficulties, and women owners specifically often face different challenges than their male counterparts. That’s according to a new study that found that despite the many hurdles to overcome, 85 percent of female small business owners say they would dive into small business ownership all over again if given the chance. Their level of satisfaction is especially evident when asked about their exit strategy:  

  • Fewer women (16 percent) than men (21 percent) will consider selling their business to the highest bidder.
  • More women (21 percent) than men (17 percent) report leaving their business to their children or relatives as opposed to an outside source.

Commissioned by Bank of the West and conducted online by Harris Poll in May 2014, the "Pay It Forward" survey provides valuable insight into the world of small business ownership from a woman’s perspective, including what matters most in starting a business, how to manage and grow a business and how to prepare for business ownership. More than 500 small business owners, 207 of which were women, in operation for five years or more were polled.

Getting a business off the ground is a serious undertaking for people aspiring to be their own boss, but women are especially keen on jumping into ownership these days. Statistics even suggest that female-led businesses are one of the fastest growing types of small businesses in the United States1. Before taking on this responsibility, the survey revealed, women perform their due diligence. This is evident in the way women approach starting a business, as compared to men:

  • A significantly higher percentage of female small business owners report they took business classes (35 percent of females vs. 26 percent of males).
  • Female business owners (31 percent) conducted Web-based research compared to just (21 percent) of male small business owners.

Although women put in more effort to prepare, female business owners shared that they did not fully immerse themselves in knowing the economic ramifications involved in starting a business. In fact, only 39 percent of women (compared to 51 percent of men) understood the financial implications completely or very well. Be that as it may, according to the National Women’s Business Council, once women-owned businesses get off the ground, they often grow faster than male-owned businesses.2

The "Pay It Forward" survey also shed some light into the difference in opinion men and women have in seeking the advice of others on managing, growing and protecting business assets. Compared to their male counterparts, a significantly higher percentage of female small business owners rate the advice of certain people to be extremely important:

  • 47 percent of females versus 35 percent of males believe the advice of an accountant is important.
  • 29 percent of females versus 21 percent of males believe the advice of a financial advisor is important.
  • 28 percent of females versus 21 percent of males believe the advice of an attorney is important.

Along the same vein, the majority of female and male small business owners named financial advisors among the top three subject matter experts for someone just starting their own business. However:

  • A significantly higher percentage of females (44 percent) listed financial advisors as the most important asset. Only 35 percent of men share the same sentiment.
  • 26 percent of males listed technology experts as the most important asset to starting a business, compared to just 18 percent of females.

"We know that starting and sustaining a business is a great investment of one’s time, resources and finances. The 'Pay It Forward' survey shows that before women reap the benefits of their hard work, they take crucial steps to prepare themselves for small business ownership," said Michelle Di Gangi, executive vice president of small and medium enterprise banking at Bank of the West. "They realize the importance of relying on trusted advisors and mentors to help get their businesses to take off, and are continuously committed to furthering their passions and reaching success."

A copy of the survey’s full findings and analysis is available upon request. Select participants of the survey also are available for media interviews. For more information on small business ownership, visit the Bank of the West blog's dedicated small business page at The "Pay It Forward" survey is the third installment in Bank of the West's "How Small Business Works" series, a periodic look at the trends and forces that impact small businesses.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Bank of the West between May 6 and 19, 2014, among 504 US residents who own a business with two or more non-owner full-time employees and less than $10 million in annual revenue, and which has been in operation for at least five years; additionally, these respondents have had an ownership role for at least five years. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Debra Jack using the included contact information.

About Bank of the West: 
Bank of the West is a regional financial services company chartered in California and headquartered in San Francisco with $69 billion in assets. Founded in 1874, Bank of the West provides a wide range of personal, commercial, wealth management and international banking services through more than 650 offices in 21 states and the internet ( Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, which has a presence in 80 countries with 190,000 employees. 

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll 
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit


Media contacts: 
Debra Jack

Ayele Ajavon

Corporate Headquarters

180 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104


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