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As Women Business Owners are Celebrated, New Challenges Arise

In North Dakota, roughly 30% of business owners are women. (Adobe Stock)
In North Dakota, roughly 30% of business owners are women. (Adobe Stock)
September 22, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Before the pandemic, North Dakota received high marks for its environment for women business owners. As these entrepreneurs are celebrated today on American Women Business Day, advocates also worry about the effect the crisis is having on women and their careers.

According to some rankings, including one from Fit Small Business, North Dakota lands near the top-10 for best states for women entrepreneurs. Kirsten Berger, marketing and communications coordinator at the North Dakota Women's Business Center, said the internet certainly has made it easier for startups and remote working.

And she said in North Dakota, outreach and support is strong.

"The chambers, the downtowners, everybody wants each other to succeed," Berger said. "I mean, North Dakota has such a great feel. It's a real shop-local kind of place."

But as the pandemic has dragged on, many business observers have noted women are bearing the brunt of the professional impact, by either scaling back or pausing their careers to help care for children.

Berger said the Center shares those concerns, but through grant money, they're helping many of these women transition back to the workplace.

North Dakota has slipped in some rankings, and it has among the lowest percentages of women small-business owners. But it also has had one of the highest growth rates for women in this category.

Berger said while there's strong support from the state, they hope to see enhanced opportunities, such as more vendor contracts for companies owned by women.

"They can go to other states and get those contracts because they're given preferential points, so that's something that would be super beneficial in our state," she said.

Berger said as North Dakota's population is predominately white, women of color face additional challenges. She said that can include language barriers and obstacles in obtaining loans.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND