Census: Women-Owned Businesses Grow

April 4, 2001 -- If the mid-1990s were characterized by a great wave of entrepreneurial activity, women were riding the crest, according to new data released by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau.

The number of women-owned businesses increased by 16 percent between 1992 and 1997, nearly triple the 6 percent increase by all firms, the bureau reported. Revenues for women-owned companies increased by 33 percent during the period, compared with 24 percent for all businesses.

"An increase in women-owned firms that's significantly larger than for firms overall is a trend we've seen since we started gathering the data in 1972," said Eddie Salyers, chief of the bureau's economic census branch.

The bureau defines women-owned business as companies privately held and with women owning at least 51 percent.

One in Four Businesses Nationwide

There were 5.4 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing 7.1 million people and generating $818 billion in receipts in 1997, Salyers said.

Another 3.6 million U.S. businesses were jointly owned by a husband and wife.

Slightly more than one-quarter of all businesses in the United States were women-owned. But such companies tend to be much smaller than businesses overall, generating just under 4½ percent of the $18.6 trillion in receipts for all businesses.

Nearly 70 percent of women-owned businesses had less than $25,000 in receipts in 1997, compared with 53 percent of all companies. About 2 percent of women-owned businesses produced more than $1 million in receipts; 5 percent of all businesses topped that benchmark.

Four states — California, New York, Texas and Florida — accounted for one-third of all women-owend businesses. Salyers said the business climate in those states is not necessarily more nurturing to women entrepreneurs.

"The range of businesses owned by women (among all states) is fairly consistent, between 23 percent and 31 percent. What makes California, Texas and the others stand out is they are big states, so that's where the (women-owned) businesses are.

While California had the largest number of women-owned businesses the District of Columbia had the largest percentage of firms owned by women, at 31 percent.

Seven out of every 10 women-owned business operated in the services or retail sales sectors, the bureau reported, generating 41 percent of all receipts.