Whither Women-Owned Firms in the US? New Census Data Shed Some Light

It’s the news we womenablers have been waiting for anxiously for some time now – the release of the most recent statistics (albeit from 2007) on the number, economic clout, and growth of women-owned enterprises. The latest facts were released today by the US Census Bureau, and this is what they show:

  • As of 2007, there were 7.8 million majority-owned, privately held women-owned firms in the US, a 20.1% increase over the previous census (in 2002);
  • These firms generated $1.2 trillion in revenues, a 27.5% increase from 2002 levels; and
  • Women-owned firms employed 7.6 million workers, up 7% from 2002.

So, overall, the trends we’ve witnessed over the past decade or more remain the same: increasing numbers, and increased economic clout. These numbers also indicate a slowing in employment growth – among women-owned firms and overall, as the economy slowed down in advance of our most recent recession.

OK, it’s great to have these new numbers, but how about a little context? First of all, let’s take a look at the relative growth of women-owned firms compared to their male-owned counterparts. During the 2002 to 2007 Census period, the number of women-owned firms grew by 20.1%, compared to a 5.5% increase among majority-owned, privately held men-owned firms. As a result, the share of women-owned firms in the business population has been steadily increasing, from 26% in 1997 to 28% in 2002 to 29% as of 2007.

Secondly, the economic contributions of women-owned firms has been increasing as well, at a rate greater than that of their increase in numbers – at least in terms of revenues generated. While the growth in the number of women-owned firms is up 20% over the past five years, revenues generated by those firms is up 28% over the same time period.

There’s a downside, though, and that is that women-owned firms, on average, continue to employ fewer people and generate lower revenues compared to their male counterparts. To wit:

  • The vast majority (88%) of women-owned firms do not employ anyone other than the owner of the firm. While the same is the case for men-owned firms, a lower share of them (77%) are non-employer firms. The average revenues of non-employer women-owned firms are $26,490 – half that of the $53,329 seen among non-employer men-owned firms;
  • Among employer firms (12% of women-owned firms and 23% of men-owned firms), the story is much the same: average revenues of women-owned employer firms are half those generated by their male counterparts – $1.1 million compared to $2.5 million.

There’s more to be learned by perusing these latest statistics, even though the more detailed publication will not be released until December of this year. womenable will be taking a deeper dive and will be reporting out additional insights. In the meantime, our advice is to use these “most recent” statistics in place of whatever other estimates you may currently be using. While the data date is 2007 (as opposed to more recent estimates as of 2008), these are rock solid and actually higher than the 2008 estimates:

  • Number of Firms: 2007 actual 7.8 million; 2008 estimate, 7.2 million
  • Sales: 2007 actual, $1.2 trillion; 2008 estimate, $1.1 trillion
  • Employment: 2007 actual, 7.6 million; 2008 estimate, 7.3 million

To learn more about this impactful new womenabling information, click on the following links for the Census Bureau’s news release, links to all of the newly-released data, or the page with a summary of the women-owned firm findings.

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