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Lost Count The U.S. Census Bureau gets stingier about classifying businesses as women-owned.

By Cynthia E. Griffin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Does your business count? Perhaps not-at least, not under newdefinitions that the Census Bureau used when performing its mostrecent survey of women-owned businesses.

In its 1992 survey, the Census Bureau defined women-ownedbusinesses as those with female ownership of 50 percent or more,including public companies. But in its recently released "1997Survey of Women-Owned Business Enterprises," the Census Bureauchanged its definition to include only privately held companieswith 51 percent or more female ownership. The result? According tothe survey, the number of women-owned businesses dropped from 6.4million in 1992 to 5.4 million.

The change was made to be consistent with government procurementguidelines, under which businesses must have 51 percent femaleownership in order to be certified as women-owned. And, inreleasing the data, the Census Bureau was careful to note the newdefinitions and to point out that, after adjusting data from bothyears to allow for "approximate comparisons," the numberof women-owned businesses actually increased 16 percent between1992 and 1997.

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