The good news: Women-owned firms are growing quickly. The better news: They're growing even more quickly than we thought. A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey shows that women-owned businesses with employees accounted for 18.5 percent of all firms with employees established between 1991 and 1994, up from 12 percent before 1980. This is the first time the Census Bureau has researched this group, which represents less than 20 percent of all women-owned firms but accounts for about 90 percent of their sales and receipts.
The Bureau found that "women are continuing to start a higher proportion of the new businesses," says Eddie Salyers, chief of the Census Bureau's company statistics branch. Salyers also indicates this study gives a truer picture of business ownership than did previous surveys, as it separates businesses into three categories rather than two: male-owned, female-owned and equally owned between men and women. The new method revealed that businesses either entirely owned by women or equally owned by women and men made up 35 percent of all businesses, up from 26 percent in 1992.
Though women-owned firms tend to be smaller than businesses in general (84.6 percent of them employ between one and nine people, compared with 79.8 percent of all firms), Salyers says they are surprisingly mature in terms of having expansion plans and access to capital. In fact, the Census found that the women business owners' answers mirrored those of men. Nearly matching the men's numbers, 12.8 percent of the women-owned firms reported their ability to operate or expand had been hampered by credit difficulties, compared with 11.5 percent of male-owned firms. And 43.2 percent of both men and women said they planned some type of expansion by 1998.
According to Salyers, seven federal agencies contributed to the funding for this report and are helping to assure the funding for the 1997 report. That 1997 survey, which will include information on all women-owned firms, should be released in the year 2000.