Survival Of Nearly 1,000 Women-Owned Businesses In Colorado Threatened By Pandemic

A recent survey of nearly 1,000 women business owners in Colorado found the Centennial State is not immune to the national "she-cession" created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video Transcript

- March is Women's History Month, and we're taking a closer look at what's become known as the "she-cession."

- A new survey reveals the harsh reality of the pandemic's toll on Colorado's women-owned businesses. More than 700 of women-run businesses fear being able to keep their doors open for six more months under current conditions. Many reporting the pandemic has created unique challenges for women. CBS 4 investigator Kati Weis spoke with expert about this "she-cession" here in Colorado.

JESSICA FUENTES: You're ready to go across the bridge?

KATI WEIS: Jessica Fuentes is a pediatric physical therapist who owns the KidSPOT in Louisville, a place where children can receive occupational, physical, and speech therapy.

JESSICA FUENTES: Ready. Steady.

KATI WEIS: On this day, she's helping four-year-old Sophie. While her work is incredibly rewarding, Jessica says this year has been incredibly difficult. She says if it weren't for federal Paycheck Protection Program assistance, she may have had to close for good.

JESSICA FUENTES: May and June, we were back up probably to, like, the 75% mark of clients, but we've definitely not been able to function in our fullest capacity.

KATI WEIS: She's not alone. In a recent survey of nearly a thousand women business owners in Colorado, 56% said their business will only be able to survive for another one to three months if pandemic circumstances don't change, and 80% could only stay open for six more months. Kate Hyatt with Energize Colorado helped administer that survey.

KATE HYATT: We did confirm that the number-one challenge for the business owners was funding to keep their businesses afloat.

KATI WEIS: Hyatt says the findings align with national surveys that discovered the pandemic's creation of a so-called "she-cession." A recent Women in the Workplace study found 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether due to COVID-19.

KATE HYATT: I find that to be alarming and certainly a challenge because it does appear that there could potentially be less women in the candidate pool.

KATI WEIS: In the Energize Colorado survey, 50% of respondents said that, as women, they believe they had to work harder at balancing work and family.

Fuentes agrees with those survey results. She says still to this day a year after the pandemic hit, 6 of her 15 team members are still working exclusively from home. That's tough for a hands-on business like hers.

JESSICA FUENTES: We've had women who have had to pull back. You know, they were 40 hours, and now they're 28 hours. Or therapists who have, you know, kind of been 28 or 20 hours now staying home fully with their children. So it's definitely been a challenge.

KATI WEIS: But the Energize Colorado survey has also found some silver linings. 18% of Colorado women business owners said they now have improved community and customer relations as a result of the pandemic.

JESSICA FUENTES: Was it tricky?

KATI WEIS: Fuentes tells me she's also found a bright side, saying the pandemic has made her stronger as a mom and a business owner.

JESSICA FUENTES: I think women, we're good at multitasking, but it makes you even better at it.

KATI WEIS: If you'd like to see the full Energize Colorado survey results, just find this story on our website, CBSDenver.com. In Louisville, I'm Kati Weis covering Colorado first.