Woman-Owned Businesses: Achievement in a Growth Demographic

Is this also the achievement behind our growth demographic?
by Kristin Slice

Women represent the largest growing demographic of business owners in the country. This is among several interesting trends revealed in final data from the most recent census. The number of women starting businesses was almost three times that of men — more than expected. As of 2012, women business owners (WBOs) represented 36.2 percent of all businesses, numbering just under 10 million, with 8.4 million employees and generating more than $1.4 trillion in receipts.

In Arizona, the numbers were 183,318 businesses, with 315,682 employees and generating $24.2 billion in receipts.

The census confirmed that women starting their own business was a major contributor in our economy bouncing back from the recession.

Encouraging entrepreneurship and business ownership has been one of the key strategies the public sector has used to build jobs in our local economies. The 2012 census data shows that diversifying our investment to include more women may create greater returns.

What Do These Numbers Mean for Arizona?

Less than five years ago, Arizona regularly topped national rankings for WBOs. Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is robust with multiple resources and more than 380 women business networking groups. The final numbers released in the census figures show that Arizona has fallen behind in its growth of WBOs.

Other states have recognized the economic development potential of WBOs and have evolved their entrepreneurial ecosystem by conducting in-depth local research, elevating WBOs’ public profile, and developing innovative economic development strategies reflective of the latest data and research on the unique challenges WBOs face. Arizona is missing out on an opportunity that leverages our local assets, strengthens our local communities and creates quality jobs.

While Arizona is currently trending in the wrong direction, a mere 10-percent shift in our current efforts is all that would be required to make us the top state in the country. That 10-percent increase could represent an additional 91,000 jobs created in the next three years.

The details of the census data reveal several reasons why, with a small change in strategy, Arizona is well-positioned to be the top state for WBOs.

Three Reasons Arizona Should be the Top State for WBOs

Demographics: Latina and African-American communities lead the majority of the growth. Arizona is home to a growing population in both of these key demographics. According to the census, women who are starting businesses are both baby boomers and millennials. Arizona is projected to follow this same trend, with our population getting “older” and “younger.”

Research shows the diversity among business owners means that the resources and programs developed to support entrepreneurial innovation need to evolve to address the unique challenges and culture these entrepreneurs represent.

Culture Change: From technology startups to the boardroom, diversity became a key priority affecting the bottom line. The census numbers, increasing visibility and leadership in community organizations are positioning women as a key factor in the success of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Key Values: The top three industries for growth in women business ownership are also reflective of the industries that have been defined as critical to Arizona’s economic future: healthcare, education services and main-street businesses.

The census numbers on female entrepreneurship portend opportunity to leverage our state’s values, ecosystem and strength for a more vibrant economy.

Growth of Women-Owned Businesses in Arizona

Year Number of Businesses
2002 109,748
2007 138,055
2112 183,318

How Arizona Compares to Other States on Growth of WBOs 2007–2012

State Percent Growth
Arizona 18.6%
California 21.9%
Colorado 23.5%
Florida 26.9%
Texas 44.5%

Kristin Slice, MA, is a business analyst with Maricopa Small Business Development Center and founder of Empowered PhXX, a community collaborative focused on the economic development of women-owned firms in Phoenix.

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