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The State Of Women-Owned Businesses In The U.S.

Doing well and showing gains, but still a way to go to achieve parity.

[Photo: Flickr user anton petukhov]

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) just released its most recent analysis of preliminary U.S. Census data. The snapshot it provides on the state of women-owned businesses shows definitive growth.

In a teleconference, NWBC’s chairwoman Carla Harris outlined the highlights. Chief among them: There were 9.9 million women-owned businesses as of 2012, up from 7.8 million in 2007, which indicates a 27.5% rate of increase.

Women-owned firms currently make up 36.2% of all non-farm businesses. That’s up from 29.6% in 2007.

The Census reports are analyzed every five years, and the 2012 Survey of Business Owners polled approximately 1.75 million businesses for information about characteristics of the businesses and its owners. The NWBC then analyzed these findings to determine how women-owned businesses fared in the larger context of the U.S. economy.

These businesses generated $1.6 trillion in total receipts (everything the business takes in payments), up 35% from $1.2 trillion in 2007. This rate of revenue growth exceeded that of male-owned businesses, which saw an increase of 33%.

Although only 10.6% of all employer firms are women-owned, slightly less than in 2007, these firms employ 8.9 million people—adding 1.5 million jobs in the last five years. Here is another stat that beats the boys: The increase of the number of employees in women-owned firms is 19.5%, compared to only 11.5% at companies owned by men. Still, the majority (89.4%) of all women-owned firms are sole proprietorships, with no employees but the owner.

Harris broke down the numbers further by ethnicity. White women account for the majority of women-owned businesses—6.1 million—which is up from 10.1% from 2007. Of businesses owned by white women, 86% are sole proprietorships, which nevertheless generated $160.2 billion in revenue.

Of all African-American businesses, the majority (58.9%) are women-owned. That’s more than 1.5 million businesses across the U.S. and the rate of growth represents a 67.5% increase.

As of 2012, there are 1.48 million Hispanic women-owned businesses in the U.S., an 87.31% increase since 2007. In comparison, the number of businesses owned by Hispanic men grew just 39.34%.

Asian-American women also made big strides as business owners. There are 754,874 Asian American women-owned businesses, up 44.34% from 2007. That is less than the five years prior (54%) but still better than growth in businesses owned by Asian men, which capped out at 25.12%. Additionally, 38.96% of Asian American non-farm and non-publicly-held businesses are women-owned.

Harris reminded the audience at the outset of the call that the NWBC was established by Congress in 1988, following legislation that eliminated the need for women to have a male relative cosign for a business loan.

Now, she noted, that while women-owned businesses are seeing unprecedented growth and access to capital and markets, there is still a lot of work to be done. She pointed out that women-owned enterprises only receive 4% of venture capital and less than 5% of government contracts.

Still, she said, based on NWBC’s research and talks with constituents, "startup culture is alive, well, and well-supported." Harris demurred on connecting the dots between the data and causes for the trends. She did say that entrepreneurs are in the midst of a "perfect storm" of historically low interest rates, inflation, record amounts of cash on corporate balance sheets, an increasing presence of women on boards of directors, and female degree holders. "It could not be a better time to start and scale," she said.

The data sets will be finalized in December.