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Research Reports

The Growth and Development of Women-Owned Enterprises in the United States, 2002 – 2012

This research is an analysis of the key trends and findings in women’s business ownership, comparing figures from the 2002, 2007, and 2012 Surveys of Business Owners. The project explores the growth and development of women-owned enterprises over the 2002 to 2012 period, paying particular attention to differences between the pre-recession period of 2002-2007 and the more recent 2007-2012 period.

The Council commissioned Womenable to complete this project, building upon an analysis of the preliminary 2012 figures released in fall 2015 and diving into the following: changes in growth in the number, employment, payroll, and revenue of women-owned business nationally, by state, by top 50 metropolitan areas, and by industry, over the entire 10-year period and across each five-year period; changes in the relative size of women-owned businesses by employment and revenue size categories — nationally and by state, metropolitan area and industry — to determine where growth is above and below average; and comparative size gaps between women-owned firms and all other privately-held firms — by industry and along the business size continuum (revenue and employment) — and how those gaps have or have not changed over the past ten years, and especially since the recession.

Key Findings include:

  • Women are entering the ranks of business ownership at record rates. Women are launching a net of more than 1,100 new businesses every single day. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2-1/2 times the national average (52% vs. 20%).
  •  Women-owned businesses comprise 36% of the country’s businesses. They employ over 8 million workers, 7% of the private-sector workforce. They generate over $1.4 trillion in revenues, contributing 4% of business revenues.
  • Perhaps the most remarkable trend in the past decade is the phenomenal growth in business ownership among women of color. In 2002, there were less than 1 million minority women-owned firms. As of 2012, there are nearly 3.8 million firms owned by women of color. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of non-minority women-owned businesses grew by just 9 percent, while the number of minority women-owned businesses overall grew by 315 percent.
  • There has been a huge increase in the number of female veteran-owned firms too. Between 2007 and 2012, when the number of all veteran-owned businesses increased by 3%, the number of female veteran-owned businesses increased by a phenomenal 295%. There are now more than 383,000 female veteran-owned businesses in the U.S.
  • Women-owned businesses are found in every industry. In fact, two percent or more are found in 13 of the 19 major industries – including more than 260,000 women-owned construction firms, more than 200,000 women-owned finance and insurance firms, and nearly 160,000 women-owned transportation and warehousing enterprises.
  • The top three sectors in which women own businesses in the U.S. are “other services,” which include nearly 1 million beauty and nail salons; “health care and social assistance,” among which there are more than 600,000 child day care service businesses, and 1.3 million “professional/scientific/technical services” firms.
  • Women are starting businesses everywhere. The sharpest rise in the number of firms is happening in the south. The top states for growth are: Georgia (+92 percent), Mississippi (+89 percent), Texas (+85 percent), Florida (+85 percent), and Louisiana (+74 percent), with four out of the five fastest-growing metropolitan areas for women-owned firms also in the South.
  • There are 19 states in which post-recession growth in the number of women-owned firms is at least 10 points higher than pre-recession growth – and most are in the North Central or Midwest regions of the U.S. The leading “bounce back” states are Louisiana, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Indiana, and Mississippi.

Knowing where women-owned firms are growing at a faster-than-average pace and recovering from the effects of the recession, and where they are lagging, provides critical information for policy and programmatic decision-making.

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