Analysis of Census Data on Women-Owned Businesses Provides New Numbers, New Insights

News Release
Growth of Women-Owned Firms Continues, But Keeps Up Pace
Only Until 100-Employee and $1M Revenue Marks


Amex OPEN Census report cover 

Empire MI - March 31, 2011 - A new analysis of recently-released Census data on women-owned enterprises in the United States finds that the growth in the number of women-owned firms continues at rates exceeding the national average, and that growth in revenue and employment keeps up the pace with all firms, but only until women-owned firms reach the 100-employee level or the $1 million revenue marks.

Women-owned firms are now estimated to number just over 8.1 million, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing 7.7 million workers. The new report, The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2011, also provides estimates of the number and economic contributions of women-owned firms by industry, by state, and by revenue and employment class of firm.

Womenable conducted the analysis, basing the 2011 estimates on an analysis of the 1997, 2002, and 2007 Census data, the latter having just been released in December 2010. Learn more about and download the 53-page report free at OPENforum.com/women, and read the full study news release here.
Rich Industry and State Data

The report offers rich insights at the industry and state level. For example, the analysis shows that:

  • Women-owned firms continue to diversify into all industries, rendering the term "non-traditional industries" virtually meaningless today. While there remain some

    Share of women-owned firms within industries

    predominately female industries (52% of all health care and social assistance firms are women-owned, for example) and while just 8% of construction firms are women-owned, most other industries come close to the overall 29% share of women-owned firms in the economy;  
  • Between 2002 and 2011, the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms has been in education services (up 54%), administrative and waste services (+47%) and construction (+41%);
  •  The states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2011 are Georgia, Nevada, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina; while the states with the lowest rate of increase in the number of women-owned firms are Alaska, West Virginia, Iowa, Indiana, and Vermont. 

New Insights on When Growth Falters 

We've all heard the finding that "the number of women-owned firms is growing at twice the national average." This new analysis shows that the rate of increase in the number of women-owned firms still tops the national average, but the ratio is now 1.5:1 - a 50% increase in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2011 compared to 34% among all U.S. firms.

We also know that growth in revenue and employment in women-owned firms has always lagged the national average overall, but a more in-depth analysis of growth by business size shows that - in actuality - women-owned firms keep up the pace with the revenue and employment growth of all U.S. firms, but only until a certain point. With respect to revenue growth, women-owned firms match the revenue growth of all firms on a percentage basis all along the business size spectrum - until the million-dollar revenue growth of WOBs by biz sizerevenue mark. With respect to employment, again women-owned firms match percent growth along most of the business size spectrum - but falter after the 100-employee threshold is crossed.

This new analysis should dispel the notion that women-owned firms start small and stay that way. In point of fact, they are progressing along the growth spectrum at a pace matching all firms - and even exceeding that of men-owned firms - and start to lag only as they approach the upper echelons of business achievement.

More work needs to be done to better understand what barriers are standing in their way, and how they may be overcome. This new report provides a much deeper understanding of growth and invaluable signposts to help guide the way.


Study Methodology

The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Business Report is based on data from the United States Census Bureau, specifically their de-facto 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 Census surveys - 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.


For detailed information on the 1997, 2002, and 2007 economic censuses, visit the  Survey of Business Owners website.  A preview of upcoming changes for the 2012 economic census may be found  here.

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. Learn more at www.OPEN.com and connect with us at openforum.com and twitter.com/openforum.   


American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.  Learn more at www.americanexpress.com and connect with us on  www.facebook.com/americanexpress, www.twitter.com/americanexpress and  www.youtube.com/americanexpress.  

Womenable is 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. Learn more at the links below. 

Direct questions about the report to:

Alex Della Rocca, M Booth & Associates
212-539-3203, alexd@mbooth.com

Rosa Alfonso, American Express OPEN
212-640-1712, rosa.m.alfonso@aexp.com
Learn more about Womenable at:


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