Women in Small Business in North America

Kathy Leck

Friday, May 23, 2014

Forbes magazine referred to the growing trend of female entrepreneurs in an article from 2012 “Entrepreneurship is the New Women’s Movement”.  These numbers just continue to rise.   According to Forbes, the growing representation of women in small business was likened to the liberation movement of the 1970s.  However with more women opening small businesses than men for the last twenty years, the trend is not new but it is an interesting one with far reaching social and organization impacts.

What is leading women to open their own business?  In a report from the National Federation of Independent Business the motivating factor for female entrepreneurs stemmed from dissatisfaction in two key areas.  Women were not happy with their work environments (many preferring to work at home or privately rather than within the dynamic of a traditional office environment).  The second reason was low job satisfaction.

Interestingly the article did not imply that the entrepreneurial path or that of a start-up business was easier than a traditional salaried opportunity.  To the contrary any individual who has run a small business knows that the hours are longer and the income can be inconsistent, particularly during the launch of a new business venture.  However between the ability to work from home and to experience the recognition and measurable rewards of business ownership, the number of women starting small business enterprises continues to grow annually.

Rather than finding a job that fits their lifestyle and professional development needs, female entrepreneurs have created their own ideal employment opportunity through small business.

Just the Facts

  • The top three cities for female entrepreneurship are San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA and Washington, DC
  • The Healthcare sector shows the greatest variance between female and male owned small businesses (61% compared to 39%)
  • More than 5.4 million women owned a small business in 1997.  In 2007 7.8 million businesses were owned and operated by women.
  • Women owned businesses are typically smaller than those owned by men with sales and earnings (on average) about 70% less than male entrepreneurs.
  • The earnings ratio between self-employed men and women is 55% which is significantly lower than in salaried non-entrepreneurial roles.

Source: Women-Owned Businesses in the 21st Century  U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration for the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Share your thoughts about women in small business.  What do you think is recruiting more female business owners in our current economy?   Is it lifestyle or financial opportunity that motivates the average independent business owner more?  Leave a comment to discuss your opinion below.


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