Two female business owners reviewing their cash flow.
Small Business Data

Women’s History Month survey: Cash flow challenges hitting women-owned businesses harder

Women’s History Month draws nationwide attention to reflect on the numerous and notable contributions of women in our society. With women-owned businesses now accounting for approximately 40% of US businesses, this moment offers an opportunity to celebrate how women contribute to our nation’s economy as entrepreneurs and highlight their struggles, often against inequities, in business ownership. 

In a new survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks, insights show that women-owned businesses are more likely to experience cash flow and funding challenges despite effective management and high growth aspirations. This may explain why more women are forced to use their own money to fund their businesses.

An equal appetite for growth

Women business owners are chasing entrepreneurial success and expansion at the same rate as their male counterparts. More than three in five women and men (62%) indicate steady or fast growth is a primary goal for their businesses. Despite an equal appetite for growth, financial inequities pose a challenge in attaining the success women owners envision for their businesses.

Financial disparities persist

As survey results show, women are more likely to dip into personal funds to cover business expenses, highlighting a significant pain point in their experience with business ownership. More than three in five (62%) women have had to use their own money to fund part of their business since startup—among men, this number drops to 56%.

While a higher percentage of women are tapping into personal funds for their businesses, a significantly smaller number are using private business loans from commercial lenders as part of their financing. Only 16% of women have used a bank loan since startup—compared to 25% of men. Data shows that women-owned businesses are approved for the full amount sought with bank loans at a lower rate than men, a disparity that could partially explain why women are less likely to pursue this funding option. 

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Only 16% of women have used a bank loan since startup—compared to 25% of men.

Of those who used their own money as business funds, only 21% of women pulled this money from an investment portfolio—well below the 38% of men who did the same. With funding being a key hurdle for women-owned businesses, equity in access to all means of financing and resources, including investments, is a prime opportunity to level the playing field in entrepreneurship. 

Financial health lagging behind non women-owned businesses 

As survey results show above, women are equally hungry for success in business. Yet women-owned businesses are struggling with profitability and financial health—the biggest survival-critical aspects of business. One in two (52%) women report that their businesses are in bad financial health. For men, this drops to 46%. Similarly, only 35% of women expect an increase in revenue over the next three months while 48% of men expect the same.

Cash flow conundrum 

Poorer financial health among women-owned businesses could be attributed to a number of reasons. One potential culprit is strained cash flow. Women (54%) are more likely than men (46%) to indicate cash flow as a problem in their businesses. And while a majority of women-owned businesses (87%) know how to measure cash flow, they still trail behind their male-owned counterparts (92%).

What business challenges are women facing?

With cash flow as a critical challenge, it’s no surprise that rising costs of inflation is a major concern for more than six out of ten women-owned businesses (64%). For businesses already cash-strapped, the financial pressure of increasing prices for goods and services can pose a serious threat to their success. It follows that women-owned businesses (35%) are more likely than their male peers (28%) to have used emergency funding to cover immediate costs due to cash flow problems.

Another contributing factor that could be fueling low profitability and revenue is customer demand. Survey results suggest more robust customer demand for non-women-owned businesses. This in combination with results revealing that only 70% of women-owned businesses know which marketing strategies provide the best return on investment suggest customer growth is a difficulty for these businesses.

Taking the lead with internal challenges

Across the board, women-owned businesses report less internal challenges with matters such as lack of management expertise, low workforce productivity, and inefficiency than their peers. While women face significant financial disparities, survey results suggest that their businesses are well-managed and prospering in how they operate. Compared to 14% of businesses owned by men, only 9% of women-owned businesses report internal challenges stemming from a lack of management expertise—despite reporting having no formal management training at a higher rate (49%) than men (36%). Women are also nearly just as likely to rarely or never feel out of depth at work compared to men (73% vs. 75%).

With many businesses still feeling the impact of the Great Resignation and ongoing hiring challenges, employee retention continues to be a priority in operations for a number of small businesses. The good news is that women-owned businesses (44%) are less likely than their peers (52%) to indicate that employee retention is getting harder—another signal that while these businesses may struggle with financials, with more support, they could achieve the success they dream of.

Sample and methodology

Intuit QuickBooks Women’s History Month 2023

Online survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks in September 2022 of 1,500 US business owners (618 women and 828 men). Respondents’ median business revenue from the previous year was $785,157 for women and $1,511,838 for men. Over one in four (27%) women respondents are sole proprietors. Almost one in five (18%) men are sole proprietors. Nearly half (47%) of women respondents have up to 20 employees. Four out of ten (42%) men respondents have up to 20 employees. Personal care services (6%), accounting (5%), and education support services (5%) are the top industries among women respondents. Agriculture (5%), accounting (5%), and business/professional organizations (4%) are the top industries among male respondents. More than one out of three (38%) women respondents have been in business for up to five years. A quarter (25%) of male respondents have been in business for up to five years. 


This content, report and materials are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, accounting, financial, investment, or tax advice, or a substitute for obtaining such advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by state or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit Inc., or its affiliates do not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit Inc., or its affiliates do not warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.

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