November 19, 2020
By Jennifer Tiedemann
Today is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a day first celebrated in 2014 to mark the work and contributions of women entrepreneurs around the world. While it is important to recognize these women, perhaps the most meaningful tribute to them is to create conditions under which women can thrive and succeed in their entrepreneurial efforts.
Women are individuals, all with unique situations and needs. Some seek full-time employment, others desire a part-time role, and still others want the flexibility to work the hours they choose. As Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur has written, “studies show that, on the whole, while men place a high premium on a larger paycheck, women value flexibility at work more than men do. That’s why the number of women-owned businesses increased by 3,000 percent since 1972, and women are increasingly choosing to work in the ‘gig’ economy.”
But government’s one-size-fits-all, top-down agendas regarding work show little understanding of the basic truth that women want flexibility in their work. Proposals like the Paycheck Fairness Act claim to protect women from pay discrimination, but in practice, such proposals disregard individual women’s preferences, instead assuming that women want higher pay instead of flexibility or other benefits. In short, they keep women from making the decisions that work best for them.
Many women choose to be independent contractors or small business owners because of the control it gives them—control to make their own schedules and follow their dreams—and the number of women-owned businesses is ever-growing. But as a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report indicated, the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen disproportionately hard on women-owned small businesses, with women-owned businesses less likely to report staff increases, less likely to be planning increased investments, and less likely to expect revenue increases.
Especially now, it’s imperative that we make it easier for women to work—but government frequently stands in the way. For example, in most states, government holds women back by requiring expensive and time-consuming occupational licenses for jobs that have nothing to do with public health or safety, like hair shampooers and braiders. Women obtain more occupational licenses than men, so they are disproportionately hurt by unneeded occupational licensing requirements. Again, less government would help make the situation better for women.
At the Goldwater Institute, we’re working to take down these unnecessary hurdles, so that it’s easier for women—and all workers—to earn a living without having to obtain a government permission slip. Last year, we made Arizona the first state in the country to recognize out-of-state occupational licenses and since then, nearly a dozen states have passed similar legislation to break down barriers to work.
Women entrepreneurship is worthy of celebration. But more important is ensuring that individual women are free to pursue the work that matches their unique wants and needs, rather than pushing them toward the careers bureaucrats think they should want.
Jennifer Tiedemann is the Deputy Communications Director at the Goldwater Institute.