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New Survey Results Reveal Women Business Owners Seek Technology

Findings Help IBM Serve Growing Global Market

White Plains, N.Y - 23 Sep 1998: ... According to the first series of surveys ever conducted of women business owners worldwide, 83 percent of women business leaders surveyed at two international conferences use computers in their businesses and 79 percent expressed concern about gaining access to technology.

The surveys, which were sponsored by IBM and conducted by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO), reveal that most of the women entrepreneurs polled already are strong users of information technology and view gaining access to technology as key to the future growth of their business. The surveys also show that women small business owners have a strong interest in taking advantage of global business opportunities.

"Due to statistics showing that women make up less than three percent of those enrolled in technology career training programs globally, there has been a strong concern that women entrepreneurs may be avoiding the use of technology in their businesses or failing to understand its importance," explained Cherie Piebes, IBM global market executive, women entrepreneurs. "These results dispel such fears and provide important confirmation of IBM's view that women business owners are a very important growth market for technology. For this reason, IBM has staked a strong leadership position in understanding the needs of women business owners and working to meet their technology requirements."

According to the NFWBO, women-owned businesses now generate sales and revenues of $2.3 trillion annually in the United States alone and comprise from one-quarter to one-third of the business in the formal economy worldwide. However, prior to the IBM-sponsored research by the NFWBO, little serious effort had been taken to understand this market globally, identify its needs, or measure its potential.

Recognizing the opportunity of this market, IBM established a worldwide marketing organization in 1996 focused solely on women entrepreneurs. In addition to developing technology-based solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of this market, IBM has forged alliances with organizations such as the NFWBO and other similar organizations around the world. Through these partnerships, IBM has sponsored women's conferences and research projects to more fully understand issues such as the role and use of technology, to identify the barriers to growth and other needs, and to measure the progress of women-owned businesses worldwide.

"In every country in which we have surveyed women entrepreneurs, gaining access to technology was a very important or extremely important concern of nearly two-thirds or more of the respondents," Piebes explained, "Eighty percent (80%) of the women entrepreneurs surveyed in Argentina voiced this concern; 69% in Canada; and 62% in Ireland."

The NFWBO has conducted five single-country surveys (Argentina, Canada, Finland, Ireland and the United States) under IBM sponsorship during the last 2 years. Additionally, the NFWBO has conducted IBM-sponsored surveys at two international conferences of leaders of women's business associations (from countries including Australia, Cote d' Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Paraguay, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda). At these conferences, 79% of the women business leaders expressed concern about gaining access to technology.

International business opportunities are playing an important role for women business owners around the world, according to those who participated in the surveys at the international conferences. Four in ten (39%) of the women business leaders surveyed are currently involved in the international marketplace. This is a relatively recent trend; 47% of them have only become involved in international trade within the last year. Among those not yet involved in importing or exporting, nearly half (48%) say they will be likely to do so within the next three years.

The widespread use of technology in women-owned businesses was evident in each of the country surveys: 100% of the women-owned firms in Canada use computers in their businesses; 95% in Argentina; 93% in the United States; 81% in Ireland; and 60% in Finland. Fully 83% of the women participating in the surveys at the two international conferences use computers in their businesses.

Use of the Internet -- called "a significant growth opportunity for women entrepreneurs" by IBM's Piebes -- varies country to country: 85% of women business owners in Canada report that they use the Internet occasionally, regularly, or constantly; 50% in Ireland; and 37% in Argentina. The survey in the United States revealed that 58% of women entrepreneurs use the Internet to some extent. Fifty-one percent (51%) of women business owners use the Internet based on the two international conference surveys.

Women-owned firms that have business home pages were most prominent in Canada, among the countries around the world that were surveyed: 41% of women entrepreneurs in Canada have a business home page; 19% in Ireland; and 16% in Argentina. Twenty-six percent (26%) of women entrepreneurs have business home pages based on the two international conference surveys. The survey in the US revealed that 23% of women business owners have home pages.

"By sponsoring this research, IBM is helping to ensure that the impact of women-owned firms worldwide is clearly understood," Piebes noted. "As a result, women business owners will have more opportunities to use technology to grow their companies.

"IBM also is meeting the continuing need for research data about women-owned businesses by sponsoring upcoming surveys in Australia, the United Kingdom and Mexico, so that we can better serve this growing business market," Piebes added.

IBM is a world leader in providing business solutions for small and medium businesses. Through its Global Small and Medium Business organization, IBM offers a host of cross-industry and industry-specific solutions designed to meet the needs of growing businesses. IBM also is the leading provider of electronic business solutions and is dedicated to helping customers and business partners leverage the potential of network computing across a wide range of business and industries. For further information visit http://www.ibm.com/businesscenter.

The National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) is a nonprofit research and leadership development foundation. NFWBO is recognized as the premier source of information and intelligence on women business owners and their enterprises by corporations, policy makers, financial institutions and the media. Up-to-date intelligence about women business owners and their enterprises worldwide is documented in NFWBO's original research and analysis. The Foundation is affiliated with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). For additional information, call NFWBO at 301-495-4975 or visit NFWBO's home page http://www.nfwbo.org.

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Contact(s) information

Ken Neal
IBM
(914) 642-4880
kneal@us.ibm.com

Bruce Rosenthal
NFWBO
(301) 495-4975, ext. 12

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