If there’s one thing everyone agrees upon, it’s tough to be a woman-owned business right now.
Jill Biden took some time off the campaign trail Friday to talk with Tory Burch, executive chairman and chief creative officer of Tory Burch and founder of the Tory Burch Foundation, about what women-owned businesses need, particularly during the pandemic, and how a Biden-Harris administration could help them regain their footing.
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The conversation, livestreamed by Glamour, was moderated by Melissa Butler, chief executive officer and founder of The Lip Bar, a Detroit-based vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand.
Biden opened up her conversation urging listeners to imagine the election of her husband as president.
“Small business owners are a critical part of this campaign,” said Biden. “Joe [Biden] knows that small businesses are the backbone of our communities. They create jobs. They enrich the character and culture of our towns and cities. They give back. I find that especially true of the millions of women-run small business across the country. While everyone is feeling the chaos of this time, women are feeling it more. Women-run small businesses, and especially those run by women of color, have been hit hard.”
Biden added that women are losing jobs, caring for sick family members, working two jobs, and often give up work to stay home and oversee remote learning. “We’re here today because women deserve better. And my husband Joe will deliver that,” she said.
During the campaign, Biden has spoken to many small business owners, from those running a restaurant to those owning an oyster farm.
“Their stories share a consistent thread — that they’re struggling because of the pandemic. They’re worried whether their small business can survive this economic and public health crisis…they’re worried about how our country will recover,” Biden said. She said Joe Biden’s plan is to have half of future Paycheck Protection Program funds for small businesses for fewer than 50 employees. He’s calling for flexible grants for small businesses that have lost substantial revenue.
After they take that on, she said, a Biden administration plans to expand access to capital and remove barriers to government contracts and to provide technical assistance so those businesses, particularly those owned by women and people of color, can take advantage of these opportunities.
Butler then asked Burch what she hears is the one crucial element that these women-owned businesses need.
“I wish it was one crucial element,” said Burch. “There are so many hurdles that women are facing. Dr. Biden is absolutely right. It is tough to be a woman in business right now.” She said that after the COVID-19 crisis hit, her foundation pivoted to give women online webinars to help them manage through very difficult situations.
“We see three major challenges. Access to capital, 16 percent of PPP loans went to women, when women own 40 percent of business in America. That alone is a statistic that needs to change. The second challenge is we know that people of color were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. One thing I didn’t know: Close to 500,000 Black-owned businesses have closed just from February to April. The third thing is that women have taken on the child-care burden. Forty percent of women are doing that versus 14 percent of men. And they’re spending more than 15 hours a week more than men on education and household tasks. The good thing is women are resilient, they are pivoting their businesses in many ways, but the bottom line is small businesses need help.”
Butler then asked Burch what should be done right now to encourage people to vote.
Burch said that as an American business leader, it’s critical to have a strong democracy. She said Tory Burch is closing its stores and business early on Nov. 3 to allow people time off to vote and still be paid. They are also allowing their employees to be poll workers, and Burch will pay them for that day. “The last thing that I’ll say is more a dialogue that needs to change. Somehow it’s perceived that voting is Democratic. I just want everyone to get behind the talking points that voting is American. And that’s what we should do as patriotic Americans.”
Biden concluded that so much is at stake with this election, “and we just can’t sit by and just watch what happens.
“We have to decide what happens. We have 18 days left to make sure our voices are heard,” said Biden.