AMEX Open Reports Insight on Growth Trends for Women-Owned Businesses – Small Business Trends

New York (PRESS RELEASE – April 5, 2011) – According to the latest U.S. Census data, women start businesses at 1.5 times the national rate, and are now estimated to own just over 8.1 million enterprises. These companies generate nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employ 7.7 million Americans. These findings are drawn from 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data and outlined in The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

The unique report from American Express OPEN provides analyses by industry, revenue levels and employment size at the national and state levels. It provides a new view of the growth trends among women-owned enterprises over the past 14 years.

Among the most notable findings:

  • Enterprises that are at least 51% owned by women account for 29% of all companies in the United States. These firms employ 6% of the country’s workforce and contribute almost 4% of business revenues nationwide;
  • The number of women-owned firms grew by 50%, well above the 34% increase in the total number of small businesses;
  • Growth in revenues (53%) and employment (8%) both lag the national averages of 71% and 17%;
  • Women-owned enterprises continue to diversify in all industries. The term “non-traditional industries” should now be retired given there are few industries in which women do not have a significant presence;
  • The industries with the highest concentration of women-owned firms are health care and social assistance (52% of all firms in this sector are women-owned) and educational services (46%);
  • The fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms has been in education services (up 54%), administrative and waste services (up 47%) and construction (up 41%);
  • In 1997, 2.5% of women-owned firms had 10 or more employees and 1.8% had $1 million or more in revenues. As of 2011, 1.9% of women-owned firms have 10 or more employees and 1.8% have $1 million or more in revenues;
  • Growth rates by revenue and employment size indicate, however, that women-owned firms are keeping pace with all firms along the business size spectrum – but only up to the 100 employee and $1 million revenue levels. In addition, women-owned firms are exceeding growth rates in revenue and employment compared to male-owned firms, but again only up until the 100 employee and $1 million marks.

“Women are driving the growth of our smaller businesses,” said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN. “They do a great job of bringing new ideas to life and they show strong results up to a certain level. In terms of both revenue and employment, the share of women-owned firms at the highest levels of business accomplishment has remained essentially unchanged over the past 14 years.”

The analysis also shows a changing dynamic over the past 14 years, with both women- and men-owned firms losing pace as larger firms grow more dominant. As of 2011, while privately held firms still account for nearly all (97%) businesses, they are now contributing less than half of U.S. jobs (47%) and 36% of business revenue. Large, publicly traded firms, though just 3% of U.S. businesses, now employ 53% of all workers and generate 64% of business revenues – up from 43% and 55% in 1997.

Trends in the States

Nationally, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 50% since 1997. The states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms over the past 14 years are:

  1. Georgia (97.5%),
  2. Nevada (87.6%),
  3. Mississippi (76.7%),
  4. Florida (73.3%)
  5. North Carolina (68.8%)

The states with the lowest rates of increase in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2011 are:

  1. Alaska (8.8%)
  2. West Virginia (17.8%)
  3. Iowa (20.1%)
  4. Indiana (23.7%)
  5. Vermont (26.2%)

In terms of growth in economic clout, the states in which the revenues of women-owned firms have increased well above the national average of 53% from 1997 to 2011 are:

  1. Wyoming (170%)
  2. The District of Columbia (146.7%)
  3. New Hampshire (117.8%)
  4. Utah (117.6%)
  5. Louisiana (110.3%)

The states in which the revenues of women-owned firms most greatly lag the national average are:

  1. Iowa (which saw a 3.1% decline in women-owned firm revenues)
  2. Maine (up only 12.9%)
  3. Michigan (15.3%)
  4. Illinois (24.3%)
  5. Rhode Island (28.3%)

“While we know that women-owned firms are typically both younger and smaller than their male-owned counterparts this analysis dispels the myth that women are ‘lifestyle businesses owners’ or that their firms are small by choice,” said Sobbott. “During a period when larger enterprises grew at the expense of small, privately held firms, women-owned businesses actually grew faster than men-owned firms up to the 100-employee threshold and million-dollar revenue marks.”

The full American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report is available at:

Study Methodology

The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Business report is based on data from the United States Census Bureau, specifically their quinquennial business census, the Survey of Business Owners (SBO), which is conducted every five years in years ending in 2 and 7. Data from the past three censuses – 1997, 2002, and 2007 – were collated, analyzed and extrapolated forward to 2011, factoring in relative changes in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) both nationally and at the state level.

This report was prepared for American Express OPEN by Womenable, a research, program and policy development consultancy whose mission is to improve the environment for women-owned businesses worldwide. Womenable pursues this mission by working with the stewards of women’s entrepreneurship around the world – policy makers, multi-lateral organizations, corporate decision makers, entrepreneurial support organizations and the women’s business community – to evaluate, implement and improve policies and programs to support women’s enterprise development.

About American Express OPEN

American Express OPEN is the leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States and supports business owners with products and services to help them run and grow their businesses. This includes business charge and credit cards that deliver purchasing power, flexibility, rewards, savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners and online tools and services designed to help improve profitability.

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