The first wave of information from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) has just been released from the U.S. Census Bureau, and the news is largely positive - for women-owned businesses at least.
While the final numbers will not be out until the end of the year, preliminary figures indicate that:
- there are now 9.9 million women-owned firms,
- employing nearly 9 million workers, and
- generating $1.6 trillion in revenues.
These numbers reveal that women-owned firms now comprise 36% of all privately-held firms (a full accounting of U.S. firms, including large publicly-traded firms, won’t be published until December) - up from a 29% share in 2002.
Where’s this growth coming from? By and large, from women of color. Back in 2002, one in seven (14%) of women-owned firms was led by a woman of color; that share has risen to nearly four in 10 (38%) as of 2012. The growth in the number of women-owned firms over that decade - 53% overall - is strongly outpaced among African American (+179%), Latina (+173%), Native Hawaiian (+138%) and Asian American (+122%) women-owned firms, and also surpassed by Native American/Alaska Native (+68%) women-owned firms.
Looking at trends by industry sector finds the strongest growth in the number of firms in administrative support and waste management services (think office administrative services, landscaping and janitorial services, +101%), educational services (including private schools, computer and language instruction, +92%) and other services (including auto repair, pet sitting and beauty salons, +86%). At the other end of the spectrum, there’s been just an 11% increase in women-owned retail trade businesses.
When looking at the growth in women-owned firms compared to all privately-held firms, the news is quite positive overall: women are now starting businesses at a higher rate post-recession compared to the five years leading up to the recession, while start-ups have plummeted overall.
That said, however, while women now represent over one-third of all privately-owned firms, their share of employment and revenues among this population has declined between 2002 and 2012.
This represents the grey lining in an otherwise silver cloud - but the full picture won’t be revealed until more detailed tabulations by employment and revenue size of firm and more detailed geography are available late in the year.