The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that women will own approximately one-half of U.S. businesses by the year 2000. There are approximately eight million women business owners today, and these businesses generate $2.3 trillion in sales. Lucile Reid, who directs a $10 billion loan program for women business owners for Wells Fargo Bank, says of women-owned businesses, “They’ve grown from being tiny businesses to strong, small businesses with great growth prospects, so you [corporations] better pay attention.”
Several major U.S. corporations have responded to women’s growing economic power by altering their sales strategies and marketing specifically to women. IBM now has women-led divisions that target women business owners. AT&T has launched commercials which feature women business owners and has trained its sales force to use communication skills and tactics that women are said to prefer. For example, women, more so than men, desire partnerships with their vendors. They seek to establish long-term relationships, demand frequent personal attention, and are often more loyal to their vendors than are men. Some women business owners dispute these generalizations and fear that essentialist stereotypes will impede them in their struggles for equality with men.