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June 15, 2021 | GSAM Connect

Womenomics: COVID-19’s Impact on Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses Alumni

COVID-19 disrupted the world. It sparked the sharpest global recession in recent history, upended personal and professional lives, and will forever change the way we operate. We also know that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women, as we addressed in “Empowering Women: How COVID-19 has Affected the Gender Gap”. In this study, we look at the impact of COVID-19 on female entrepreneurs, through the lens of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses Alumni.

“Womenomics1" refers to the significant impact and contribution that women make to a global economy, and women entrepreneurs are a powerful piece of the puzzle. According to the World Bank, there are more than 12 million women-owned firms in the US that contributed nearly $3 trillion annually to the economy. In developing countries, women entrepreneurship is rising and there are roughly 10 million small-and medium-sized enterprises with at least one women owner2.

Women have successfully been driving commercial outcomes, but gender barriers in entrepreneurship still exist. Globally, only 1 in 3 businesses are owned by women3. And according to the OECD, 5.3% of women are involved in business creation, compared to 7.9% of men4. With less representation, role models, and natural networks, only 43.4% of women report their capability to start a new business, a confidence gap of 12.2% relative to men5.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the challenges that women already faced, including access to financing, industry segmentation, family commitments, and confidence. The sectors in which women disproportionately work were hurt most by the pandemic, and the tightening of capital reserves amplified the financing gap. COVID-19 also intensified caregiving challenges, as school closures meant balancing a business with full-time parenting. Together, this all chipped away at confidence.


Exhibit 1: Key Challenges as a Result of Covid-19

What have been the key challenges your business has faced as a result of COVID-19?

Source: Goldman Sachs Asset Management. As of May 31, 2021.


We checked in with the global cohort of women who have participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses programs since inception6, to understand their experiences through these unprecedented times. We found that these alumni were deeply affected by COVID-19, as was the rest of the world. Our key observations include:

  • Our 10KW and 10KSB women alumni experienced challenges as small business leaders, regardless of region, industry, or experience. Nearly all graduate respondents experienced some difficulty in running their small businesses.
  • The most significant challenge reported was financial, with ~60% of respondents reporting declines in revenues. A close second was related to caregiving and responsibility for running families and businesses, as many entrepreneurs had to spread their time, energy, and focus.
  • COVID-19 created disruptions that led to booms in some sectors and busts in others. Women entrepreneurs are overrepresented in the industries most adversely impacted by COVID-19 – namely recreation, services, and trade – and as such, women have borne the brunt of the busts, while missing out on most of the booms.
  • In response to COVID-19, 70% of alumni pivoted or changed their business model in ways that many expect will be permanent. Greater digital adoption was a major trend, and 70% reported that the shift in digital solutions and working patterns during the pandemic has made leading a business easier or more accessible as women entrepreneurs.
  • Despite the challenges, 78% remained optimistic in their future business prospects. The majority of respondents felt that the pandemic did not meaningfully alter their business outlooks, neither in performance nor in their abilities to lead. About 86% of respondents said they were still doing business, and 81% reported that the 10KW and 10KSB programs had been useful for adapting to COVID-19 and positioning for future growth. Just as important, we found that confidence deteriorated for 34% of the graduates relative to pre-pandemic levels, a potentially concerning shift especially with respect to growth potential.
  • The global focus on environmental, social, and governance issues is a priority for smaller businesses. About 78% cited the importance of having a “purpose beyond profit.” Still, COVID-19 introduced uncertainty around community involvement of business.

The evidence from the COVID-19 experience is clear: women are resilient and are great business leaders. But in order for them to thrive, we must not let the pandemic undo decades of progress towards economic gender equity. Empowering women is no longer an option, it is an economic and business imperative. At Goldman Sachs, we believe that when women do better, we all do better.



1. Womenomics is a term originally coined in 1999 by the Goldman Sachs Japanese Portfolio Team in Global Investment Research from the report "Womenomics: Buy the Female Economy." In 2020, the European Portfolio Strategy Team published “Womenomics: Europe moving ahead.”

2. World Bank: Female Entrepreneurship Resource Point - Introduction and Module 1: Why Gender Matters

3. World Bank: Women Entrepreneurs Needed - Stat

4. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: The Missing Entrepreneurs 2019 Policies for inclusive entrepreneurship

5. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: 2018/2019 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report

6. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women (10KW) is a global initiative that fosters economic growth by providing women entrepreneurs around the world with a business and management education, mentoring and networking, and access to capital. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) is an investment to help entrepreneurs in the US and UK create jobs and economic opportunity by providing access to education, capital and business support services.

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About the Author

Candice Tse

Candice Tse

Global Head of Strategic Advisory Solutions, Goldman Sachs Asset Management
Wendy  Lin

Wendy Lin

Vice President, Senior Market Strategist, Strategic Advisory Solutions, Goldman Sachs Asset Management

Access the Podcast



How did women entrepreneurs fare during the pandemic? Goldman Sachs’ Asahi Pompey, Global Head of Corporate Engagement, and Candice Tse, U.S. Head of Market Strategy in Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s Strategic Advisory Solutions team, discuss the findings from a new report on this topic in Exchanges at Goldman Sachs.

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