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Women and Work: Then, Now, and Predicting the Future for Women in the Workplace

Women in Business



"Women-owned businesses are privately held firms in which women own 51 percent or more of the firm. The U.S. Census Bureau's latest Survey of Women-Owned Business Enterprises (SWOBE) reported that women owned 5,417,034 U.S. non-farm businesses in 1997. Women-owned businesses made up 26.0 percent of the nation's 20.8 million non-farm businesses, employed 7.1 million paid workers, and generated $818.7 billion in sales and receipts.

"For businesses owned by minority women, Hispanic women owned 337,708 firms; black women owned 312,884 firms; Asian and Pacific Islander women owned 247,966 firms; and American Indian and Alaska Native women owned 53,593 firms. White non-Hispanic women owned 4,487,589 million firms.

"Over half (55 percent) of women-owned firms were in the services industry in 1997. Within the services industry, women were most likely to operate firms in business services (769,250 firms) and personal services (634,225 firms). The combined sales and receipts for these two sectors totaled $78.3 billion.

"Women-owned businesses had total sales and receipts of $818.7 billion in 1997. The four industries that produced the largest total revenues for women-owned businesses in 1997 were wholesale trade, services, retail trade and manufacturing. Women-owned firms operating in wholesale trade--durable and non-durable goods--recorded receipts of $188.5 billion. Those operating in services--for example, hotels and other lodging places; personal services; business services; auto repair, services, and parking; miscellaneous repair services; motion pictures; amusement and recreation services; health services; legal services; and educational services--had sales of $186.2 billion. Women-owned firms in retail trade had sales of $152.0 billion and those in manufacturing had sales of $113.7 billion.

"Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of minority women-owned firms operated in the services (531,532 firms) and retail trade (133,924 firms) industries. Firms owned by minority women recorded total sales and receipts of $84.7 billion in 1997. Those owned by Asian and Pacific Islander women earned $38.1 billion; Hispanic women, $27.3 billion; black women, $13.6 billion; and American Indian and Alaska Native women, $6.8 billion."

Source: U.S. Department of Labor: Women Business Owners


Employers will be unable to meet the flexibility requirements of many women. Women owned businesses will become the career of choice for many women. Women owned employer firms grew by 37 percent from 1997 to 2002, four times the growth rate of all employer firms. While the majority of firms started by women since 1997 are in the service industry, there are a growing number of women starting firms in non traditional industries such as construction and finance. The Center for Women's Business Research provides an article based on unpublished census data and other original research sources to present these figures.

What Employers Can Do:

Employers can follow the recommendations made in the first three parts of this article to stem the tide of talented women starting their own businesses. But, the tidal wave has started and will be difficult to stop. Women are increasingly in touch with the flexibility, empowerment, and challenge inherent in owning and operating a small business, large business, or even a home-based business or sole-proprietorship. Increasingly, employers will compete with this option for talented female employees.

Resources for Women Considering Starting a Business:

The Center for Women's Business Research

The National Association of Women Business Owners

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