Minority- and women-owned small business trends

Taking responsibility for workforce well-being


The pandemic has highlighted the unique struggles facing small businesses and their workforces. Guardian’s recent report Inflection Point: How small businesses are emerging from COVID-19 explores the impact of the pandemic on small businesses and found that, overall, employee well-being was meaningfully lower at small businesses than larger firms. Despite this general trend, minority- and women-owned small businesses are ahead of the curve when it comes to prioritizing employee well-being through generous benefits and programs that support employees’ financial health and encourage employee retention. More than six in 10 minority- and women business owners agree that they have a responsibility to ensure the financial preparedness of their workers.1

Objectives and strategy drive employee benefits offerings

While keeping tabs on benefits-related costs is a top priority for all small businesses, minority- and women-owned small businesses are more likely to have defined objectives in place around their benefits strategy. Seventy percent of minority- and women-owned small businesses aim to increase employee benefits education compared to 58 percent of all small businesses sampled. They are also more likely to have objectives around offering flexible hours and telecommuting (69 percent compared to 58 percent) and expanding their mental health resources (72 percent compared to 56 percent).

Moreover, minority- and women-owned small businesses take more responsibility when it comes to helping their employees select their benefits. More than three in four minority-and women-owned business owners prioritize helping their employees to make better benefits decisions. And enhanced resources and greater communication during benefits enrollment is in demand: two in three workers want more targeted personalized benefits communication.2

Enhanced voluntary benefits offerings

Notably, minority- and women-owned small businesses are nearly 20 percent more likely to have a strategy around offering voluntary benefits than all small firms (71 percent compared to 52 percent). These firms offer critical illness and accident insurance15 percent more than other small businesses. Moreover, minority- and women-owned firms were significantly more likely to offer hospital indemnity, life insurance, and long-term disability benefits.

And the benefit to having a voluntary benefits plan in place is clear: employees with a voluntary benefits strategy report higher benefits participation than average.3

Greater investment in human resources and benefits technology

Minority- and women-owned small businesses are more likely to utilize employee benefits technology platforms and have fully integrated systems across human resources and benefits. Three in four minority- and women-owned small businesses increased their spending on human resources technology within the past three years. More than two in five (41 percent) of these businesses also work with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), allowing them to access a wider range of benefits and services at a more affordable price than would be traditionally offered to firms of their size. Many of these strong technology investments are tied to the fact that most (84 percent) of minority- and women-owned firms have only been in business for five to nine years.

Understanding the role benefits play in financial health

Minority- and women-owned businesses are well-positioned to appreciate the role that benefits play in overall financial well-being. Women are more likely to emphasize the role of their benefits in their financial health, with 42 percent reporting that they would face financial hardship without the benefits they receive through work. Black Americans report higher instances of living paycheck to paycheck than white Americans (39 percent versus 27 percent). These notable differences may influence the value placed on benefits as part of the large picture around financial health.

Learn more about the trends and strategies that small businesses are adopting today in our report Inflection Point: How small businesses are emerging from COVID-19.

Stay at the forefront

Looking for more research, resources, and insights? Visit Guardian Edge to stay informed of the latest industry trends.

Go now

Guardian Edge is your resource for the latest insights on workplace trends
Get insights


Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon only when coordinated with individual professional advice. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, and employees do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional regarding your individual situation.

1 Unless otherwise mentioned, all figures are from Guardian’s 10th Annual Workplace Benefits Study.

2,3  Guardian Workplace Benefits Study report, "Benefits Optimization," (2020)

2021-129507  20231101