Women-Owned Businesses Top 9 Million in 1999

The number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. has more than doubled during the past 12 years, according to a new report by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO). Employment in women-owned firms has increased four-fold since 1987 and sales have grown five-fold, demonstrating their escalating impact on the economy.

California ranks first out of the 50 states in all three major categories--the number of women-owned firms, employment and sales.

These figures, just released in May, show the phenomenal expansion of women-owned businesses. In the past decade, women-owned businesses have doubled in number, but even more impressive, the number of employees has grown more than four times and sales have increased more than five times. Today, there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S.,representing 38 percent of all businesses,employing 27.5 million people and generating over $3.6 trillion in sales annually.

The increasing number of women-owned businesses and their growing economic impact are changing the business landscape. Women entrepreneurs are active in the business marketplace,accessing capital, buying technology, using the Internet to expand their businesses, and establishing retirement plans in much the same way as their male counterparts.

NFWBO's analysis shows that from 1987 to 1999, the number of women-owned firms in the U.S. increased 103 percent. Employment grew at a far more rapid rate of 320%, and sales skyrocketed 436 percent.

In California, there are 1.2 million women-owned businesses, accounting for 39 percent of all firms in the state. Women-owned firms in California employ more than 3.8 million people and generate nearly $549 billion in sales.

Between 1987 and 1992, Census figures indicated that the number of California's women-owned firms increased by 43 percent, employment increased by 142 percent and sales grew by 174 percent. During the 1992-1999 period, NFWBO estimates that the number of women-owned firms in California has increased by 42 percent, that employment by these businesses has grown by 140 percent and sales have risen 164 percent.

NFWBO's report, "1999 Facts on Women-Owned Businesses: Trends in the U.S. and the 50 States," was sponsored by the organization's Leadership Circle, preeminent entrepreneurs who support NFWBO's mission to encourage the growth of women-owned enterprises through research and sharing information.

The top ten ranked states based on the number of firms, number of employees and sales generated are: California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, New Jersey, and Washington and Michigan (tied for 10th).

The ten fastest growing states based on 1992 to 1999 growth rates, according to NFWBO, are: Georgia, Arizona, Washington, Delaware, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Florida, and California.

While the largest share of women-owned firms are in the service sector, the greatest growth in the number of women-owned firms continues to be in "non-traditional" industries. In California, as in the nation as a whole, most women-owned firms are in services and retail trade. Over half 955 percent) of the women-owned firms in California are in services and 16 percent are in retail trade. From 1992 to 1999, the greatest growth in the number of women-owned firms in California was seen in construction (73 percent), wholesale trade (62 percent) and transportation/communications (41 percent) according to NFWBO.

NFWBO also has identified significant differences in how women business owners lead their businesses. According to NFWBO research women entrepreneurs are more likely than men business owners to place value on business relationships as well as factual information, are more likely than men entrepreneurs to seek out the opinions and input of others, and are more reflective than their male counterparts when making decisions. As women-owned firms continue to increase in numbers and economic strength, it is increasingly valuable for customers, policy makers, and business-to-business marketers to understand and benefit from these similarities and differences.


Frances Nevarez is President of the National Association of Women Business Owners, California Chapter. She owns Automation Training Specialists in San Jose. NAWBO-CA is a consortium of 10 NAWBO chapters throughout the state.

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