Female CEOs Are More Optimistic About Economy, Hiring: Survey

Female business owners are cautiously optimistic about the economy, with many expecting to begin hiring in the next year, according to a survey out Tuesday.

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Many female CEOs are starting from a more secure place in April 2011 compared to April 2010, and have used the economic downturn to invest in their businesses and prepare for growth, which includes adding employees, according to the Key4Women Confidence Index.

The index, a collaboration between the Center for Women’s Business Research and KeyBank, measures how women business owners are faring in the larger economy following the economic collapse in September 2008.

"The index results illustrate that women business owners used the economic slowdown to improve their businesses, adjust their practices, and poise themselves for growth in employment and into new markets," says Maria Coyne, Key’s head of business banking and founder of Key4Women.

About 42 percent of those surveyed plan to increase employment during the next 12 months. Only about 5 percent of the 164 CEOs, whose businesses range in revenue from $25,000 to more than $15 million, plan to cut workers.

The survey group covers most major industry sectors, with the highest concentration, about 34 percent, coming from "personal, professional, or business services."

More than half of the women reported investing in marketing or advertisements for their businesses as well as creating new products and services during the economic crisis. About 37 percent also invested in technology.

About 30 percent said the single most important problem facing their business is poor sales, followed by competition from large businesses (17.1 percent) and taxes (9.8 percent).

Fewer female business owners are seeking credit this year — 53 percent compared to 39 percent last year.

KeyBank is a unit of Cleveland-based KeyCorp , one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $90 billion.

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