New Research Details Solutions to Empower Women Entrepreneurs

Occupational licensing reforms are especially important in rural areas where startup activity is declining

Kansas City, Mo -- Marking Women’s Small Business Month, Women’s Foundation today released new research and outlined solutions to lower occupational licensing barriers that restrict entry into certain professions and make it harder for women to start their own businesses.  

The findings were announced at a virtual press conference with the Institute of Public Policy University of Missouri’s Truman School of Public Affairs and the Professional Beauty Association.

The research found that, of 139 professions licensed in Missouri and its neighboring states, 41 percent of the professions were licensed by only one state. Women’s Foundation encouraged policymakers to let people keep their professional licenses when they move across state lines, lower the requirements to enter certain fields, and waive licensing fees for low-income individuals. 

“Occupational licensing requirements can create real barriers for women, whether they’re moving to another state, entering a new profession, or coming back from maternity leave,” said Wendy Doyle, Women’s Foundation President and CEO. “Policy solutions like waiving fees and accepting licenses obtained in other states can empower women economically and break down the barriers that keep them from getting ahead. Women’s Foundation will continue to work for change and push for solutions that will help close the gender pay gap and empower women to achieve their dreams.” 

Women’s Foundation research has found that the number of jobs requiring a license has expanded exponentially, and that the training requirements are often irrelevant or out-of-date. In 1950, only about 1 in 20 jobs required a license. Today, more than 1 in 4 Americans need a license to legally perform their work, and women are more likely to work in professions that require a license. 

The organization said that reforming these requirements is especially important in rural areas, where entrepreneurship and startup activity is declining.  In 1977, more than two out of every ten U.S. startups were in rural areas. Today, according to the Kauffman Foundation,  this number is just over one in every ten. 

Women’s Foundation commissioned the research from the Institute of Public Policy  with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as part of the organization’s continued work to promote equity and opportunity for women of all ages and develop policy solutions to make meaningful change.

“While regulation of the industry protects public health and safety, there should never be a restriction on someone’s ability to earn a living,” said Bridget Sharpe, Government Affairs and Industry Relations Manager at the Professional Beauty Association. “Sensible reforms like streamlining standards and increasing license mobility can boost career opportunities while also maintaining the high standards that protect and serve the public.” 

Women’s Foundation has shared its findings with the Governor’s Task Force on Boards and Commissions, which is expected to submit its recommendations to Gov. Eric Greitens’ at the end of this month.

The briefs, which supplement the 2016 report on Occupational Licensing and Women Entrepreneurs in Missouri, outline a number of potential solutions for policymakers to consider. For example:

  • Exploring licensing alternatives like certification, registration, and mandatory bonding, all of which are less than the requirements of full licensure;
  • Conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis through sunrise or sunset statutes to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of occupational licensing requirements and determine the feasibility of less-burdensome alternatives;
  • Expanding reciprocity through national or regional compacts; 
  • Waiving licensing fees for low-income job seekers; 
  • Improving data collection to identify issues and trends and to find efficiencies and improve systems. 
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