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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The $65 billion federal boost to expand broadband access in the U.S. will be a boon to the women-run companies on platforms like Etsy and Airbnb, especially as they see an increase in rural businesses.

Why it matters: Expanding high-speed internet access across the country will enable more women to participate in the online economy at a time when women have dropped out of the labor force due to the pandemic.

What's happening: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo held a roundtable discussion Wednesday with platform leaders and female business owners to discuss how improved broadband access leads to economic empowerment.

Etsy seller Ali Fitzgerald, who lives in southeastern Washington state, called into the virtual roundtable using a landline because she was worried her satellite internet connection would not be stable enough for Zoom.

  • Fitzgerald said she couldn't afford satellite internet when she started Wild Clementine & Co., and cell service was patchy, so she would drive to a hilltop where she got service to run her store.
  • "There's still quite a lot of us that struggle with maintaining those connections and trying to run our businesses with limited internet," Fitzgerald said during the event. "It's hard enough running a business."

The big picture: Raimondo highlighted a JPMorgan Chase Institute study that found that women are more likely to use platforms like Airbnb, Etsy or eBay, than transportation platforms like Uber or DoorDash.

  • Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk said women make up 60% of the hosts for the home rental company, and described WiFi as a critical amenity. “Having connectivity in these rural areas empowers hosts to participate,” Blecharczyk said.
  • eBay CEO Jamie Iannone said in three quarters of states, rural business is outpacing urban business.
  • Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said 80% of sellers are women, and about a quarter of Etsy sellers live in rural areas.

What they're saying: "Women especially will see the benefits of this increased access to broadband," Raimondo said. "And this is long overdue."

Editors note: This story has been corrected to note that it was Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk at the roundtable (not CEO Brian Chesky).

Go deeper

Hope King, author of Closer
Jan 12, 2022 - Economy & Business

Exclusive: King Center partners with Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women initiative

This April 29, 2018 photo shows the tomb where Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King are interred in Atlanta at the King Center. (Photo: AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)

Goldman Sachs is helping to relaunch a youth leadership program run by the King Center, Axios is first to report.

  • The new partnership, announced today, is part of the investment firm’s $10 billion, 10-year effort to close the economic gap that Black women continue to face.

Why it matters: Goldman Sachs launched its One Million Black Women initiative last March in response to a national outcry for companies and individuals to do more to reverse racial injustices. 

  • Civil rights leader Coretta Scott King founded the King Center in Atlanta following the assassination of her husband Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote nonviolent social change.

Details: The King Center’s Beloved Community Leadership Academy is designed to help 13- to 18-year-olds develop leadership skills and character, while learning about nonviolent strategies that can lead to societal change. 

  • Through the partnership, the program will also create a cohort of Black girls from across the country who can participate in programs related to One Million Black Women and access mentorship.

What they’re saying: “By lifting up Black women and girls everywhere, we can not only honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., but also create a more dynamic and inclusive economy,” said David Solomon, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. 

The big picture: The inequities affecting a demographic group which makes up more than 6% of the U.S. population has held the country back from meeting its economic potential, S&P Global U.S. chief economist Beth Ann Bovino told Axios executive editor Aja Whitaker-Moore

  • The pandemic has also exacerbated the gap.
  • The latest example: While the unemployment rate for U.S. workers fell in December, the percentage of Black women who were unemployed grew to 6.2% from 4.9% in November — the only gender and racial group to experience an increase.
Updated 7 mins ago - Economy & Business

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.