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Women Business Owners:
Part One ... Clout

See also:
Women Business Owners: Part Two ... Credit
Women Business Owners: Part Three ... Technology
Women Business Owners: Part Four ... The Internet
Women Business Owners: Part Five ... Capital
Women Business Owners: Part Six ... Capital

          Women-owned businesses employ one out of every four workers in the United States -- i.e., 26 percent of the US labor force -- concluded a study released March 27, 1996 by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, now the Center for Women's Business Research (CWBR). Susan Peterson, Chair of the NFWBO and president of a Washington, DC-based communication training firm observes, "Sales and employment generated by women-owned businesses have skyrocketed over the past nine years. Today, over 18.5 million people owe their jobs to a woman business owner. The sheer strength of the numbers re-affirms that women business owners are powerful catalysts for promoting the health of our economy."

          Significantly, the highest growth rates among women-owned firms occurred in the larger businesses, those with 100 or more employees. The number of these larger firms as well as employment attributed to these larger women-owned firms reported increases greater than all the smaller categories.

          "This new data strongly reinforces that women-owned businesses are an increasingly potent economic force," noted Laura Henderson, former Chair of the NFWBO, and President and CEO of Prospect Associates, a health communication firm. "Women-owned businesses are growing more rapidly than is the overall economy and are major contributors to the nation’s economic health and competitiveness. By documenting women business owners’ progress, this report makes a significant contribution to helping the nation understand the importance of women business ownership."

          Upon releasing this earlier report, David T. Kresge, Senior Vice President of D&B Information Services, explained, "Women-owned businesses are as financially sound and creditworthy as the typical firm in the U.S. economy. They pay their bills as promptly and are at no greater risk of failing than other firms. In fact, women-owned firms are more likely to have remained in business over the past three years than the average U.S. firm."

          Current NFWBO research estimates there are nearly 8.0 million women-owned businesses in the United States. The number of firms owned by women grew 78 percent between 1987 and 1996, nearly twice the rate of increase in the number of all firms in the US (47 percent). Annual sales of women-owned firms are approaching $2.3 trillion in 1996, a dramatic increase of 236 percent since 1987! Employment has also grown exponentially, increasing by 183 percent over these past nine years.

          Startlingly, trends reveal that the most remarkable growth in women-owned businesses is found in non-traditional industries. The dominant growth industries for women-owned businesses between 1987 and 1996 have been: construction (up 171 percent), wholesale trade (up 157 percent), transportation/communications (up 140 percent), agriculture (up 130 percent), and manufacturing (up 112 percent). Although the most important growth has been in "non-traditional" industries, the largest share of women-owned businesses continues to be in the service sector. Over half (52 percent) of women-owned firms are engaged in services; 19 percent are in retail trade and 10 percent are in finance, insurance and real estate.

          Geographic patterns are enlightening. Every state is witnessing the increases in the number of women-owned businesses. The highest growth rate over the past nine years has been recorded by Nevada (130 percent), followed by Georgia (112 percent), New Mexico (108 percent), Florida (106 percent), and Idaho (104 percent). "The growth in the number of women-owned businesses continues to be dramatic across the nation," comments Julie R. Weeks, NFWBO Director of Research. "Even in the state with the lowest growth rate, North Dakota, the number of women-owned firms grew nearly 40%."

          Complementing studies of the economic impact of women-owned businesses, NFWBO research reports have disclosed:

          Their economic and social impact catapults women-owned businesses into the vanguard of industry, commerce and finance in the United States.


This column is based upon research conducted and published by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (now the Center for Women's Business Research), 1411 K Street, NW, Suite 1350, Washington, DC 20005-3407.

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