"No evidence could be found supporting the view that women business owners are systematically discriminated against in the credit markets," the report stated. The only exception, the report said, is that women more often than men were required to have someone else co-sign for their loan but that the ultimate decision on the loan request or the terms of the loan were not affected by gender.
But a sampling of women entrepreneurs found that one of their biggest problems was getting a loan.
"The financing was hard. . . . It was a tap dance," said Margaret F. Eddy, a San Diego financial planner. "You were treated like a leper."
Without credit, Eddy said, she had to pay cash for everything.
Found Right Bank
"My business is 10 years old. I've talked about it for 10 years," said Penny L. Kerry, president of PNI Omnitects, a San Francisco architecture and design firm. "They say the business loan problems have diminished for women. It's nonsense."
Angela Franklin, co-owner of Professional Reliable Nursing Service, a Stockton-based home nursing service, said she was lucky to find a small bank that was just starting out and was interested in funding new companies.
But Kerry said she worries that deregulation and the easing of restraints on interstate banking will mean that big banks will buy the small lending institutions where many women entrepreneurs get their funding.
"You're going to be dealing with Citicorp and Manny Hanny (Manufacturers Hanover Bank) and, believe me, they have no room in their portfolio for us," she said.
For Asian women, credit is much less of a problem, said Lynne Choy Uyeda, who owns a Los Angeles advertising firm called Lynne Choy Uyeda & Associates. That is because the Asian community has developed several unconventional methods of financing such as family lending associations, private credit unions and loan clubs, in which members contribute to and bid for the loan pot. Many of these organizations are headed by women, she said.
"Women are going to these loan clubs with nothing more than their expertise and their honor," she said.
Success in business can exact a personal cost, many women said.
Kerry said she and her then husband started separate businesses within a month of each other. "His failed and mine succeeded, and it cost the marriage."
Or as one woman entrepreneur who is the mother of two quipped: "To be successful, you have to be willing to let your children starve."
STRENGTH IN SERVICES
Most of the women-owned businesses in Los Angeles County in 1982, the latest year for which there are reliable statistics, were in the service and retail industries.
Industry Companies Sales Services 61,798 1,365,720 Retail trade 26,530 1,133,183 Finance, insurance & real estate 11,838 291,192 Other 8,969 184,252 Manufacturing 2,736 261,275 Construction 1,934 145,610 Transportation & public utilities 1,574 110,944 Agricultural services 1,016 37,671 Wholesale trade 1,080 259,671 Total 117,475 $3,789,518
Source: U.S. Census Bureau