LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Arkansas ranks as one of the worst states for supporting women-owned businesses, but one Arkansas legislator is working to change that.
Representative Michelle Gray (R-Melbourne) said that over the last couple of years, Arkansas went from 36th in the nation to 46th in the nation for economic clout for women in business.
With only 25% of Arkansas businesses being owned by women, Representative Gray said she is working to officially classify women business owners under minority status like they do at the federal level. She wants to include them in state efforts to better support minority businesses.
“Because we don't have that certification in Arkansas, it hinders the women-owned business community from successfully bidding and getting contracts,” said Gray.
She says women have reached out to her asking for help because of the struggles they face.
“The number of employees in women-owned business has gone down 10% and that's a decline we don't want to see,” said Gray.
Sharon Woodson, owner of Honey Pies, said owning a business has been really intimidating. She said she wasn’t sure who to network with or who was able to answer questions. She said with so few women owning businesses, it's hard to find connection and help.
“It’s really seeking out mentors and finding people who can give you the proper advice,” said Woodson.
She hopes that she and other women can share the skills they have learned to help other women interested in owning businesses.
“I’ve talked with my female staff, specifically, asking about their career goals and what can I be doing to help,” said Woodson. “I ask them what they want to be doing in 5 or 10 years and help them figure out that next step.”
Representative Gray is now working with minority leaders and economic development to create legislation. She said she hopes the process will open the conversation about women in business and the challenges they face.