Nearly half (48 percent) of all privately-held firms are at least 50% owned by a woman or women, according to the Center of Women’s Business Research (2005). As of 2005, there are an estimated 10.6 million majority-owned, privately-held, women-owned firms in the U.S., employing 19.1 million people and generating $2.5 trillion in sales.
The Center also provides some additional staggering facts. The number of women-owned firms with employees has expanded by an estimated 28% between 1997 and 2004, three times the growth rate of all firms with employees. During the same timeframe, the estimated growth rate in the number of women-owned firms was nearly twice that of all firms (17% vs. 9%), employment expanded at twice the rate of all firms (24% vs. 12%), and estimated revenues kept pace with all firms (39% vs. 34%).
What’s changed and why are women embracing entrepreneurship as a new way of life?
Environment While this could be a place for a soapbox, it’s not about breaking through the glass ceiling. The environment has shifted and women are heading into the world with stronger skills and expertise. An article out of Stanford University computer science class cites the growing trend of women-owned technology companies.
Instead of trying to break through a male-dominated industry, especially at the executive level, women are more inclined to start at the top and grow their own. By starting their own companies, they are tapping into a $60 million dollar market aimed at young girls.
Access Access to resources, both financial and technical, has become stronger for women thinking of starting a business. A simple Google search provides a significant number of hits alone.
Both federal and state governments target women with resources for starting businesses. The National Association of Women Business Owners provides mentoring, education and resources. Banks are reaching out to women entrepreneurs as this sector of business continues to grows.
On regional and local levels, access to resources may be at its strongest. Municipalities have recognized the important contributions that women-owned businesses make to their towns. Oftentimes, these businesses provide services that result in a positive impact, such as providing day care to allow more women into the workforce.
Role Models What may probably have the strongest impact is seeing women leading large companies. These women provide a shining example of what can be accomplished. As more and more women take on the role of President and CEO, future generations accept the new boundaries and look to going further.
Young girls in business are seeing women lead major companies in both traditional and non-traditional industries. Indra K. Nooyi is the president and chief financial officer of PepsiCo. Meg Whitman spent several years leading Ebay. Shelly Lazarus is the president and CEO of Ogilvy and Mather, one of the nation’s leading advertising companies, just to name a few. They are also seeing their mothers, aunts, sisters, and friends making the commitment to entrepreneurship and succeeding.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur does not have anything to do with gender. Both men and women will start businesses. Some businesses will succeed and some won’t. The important lesson here is not that women are breaking through barriers or finally reaching the top. The importance of increasing women-owned businesses is that they bring strength to the economy while enriching each community’s diversity.
There are several important websites providing technical resources and information for women who are pursuing entrepreneurship: