Woman-Owned Businesses Record 3100 Percent Growth

by RaeAnne Marsh

Nationally, the number of women-owned businesses increased a dramatic 31 times since 1972 — from 402,000 to 12.3 million in 2018; employment grew 40-fold, from 230,000 to 9.2 million; and revenues rose from $8.1 billion to $1.8 trillion — 217 times greater. Noting this information from the recently released eighth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express, gives the historical perspective of three generations, American Express research advisor Geri Stengel says, “Women have been becoming entrepreneurs by the droves.”

In this year’s annual report — which analyzes data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners and factors in relative changes in Gross Domestic Product — American Express for the first time looked back to 1972, which was the first time the U.S. Census Bureau provided data on minority- and woman-owned businesses. Considering just the numbers, woman-owned businesses that generated revenues of more than $1 million increased 46 percent over the past 11 years versus 12 percent of all U.S. businesses. While these high-earning firms make up only 1.7 percent of all woman-owned businesses, they now account for 68 percent of total employment and 69 percent of revenue among all woman-owned businesses. Also, while the share of woman-owned businesses leapt from 29 percent in 2007 to 40 percent in 2018, the proportion of total employment and revenues for all businesses grew by only a few percentage points.

Arizona is ranked 11th in growth of number of woman-owned firms since 2007, with a 53.6 percent increase; 46th in growth of jobs created; with a 1.9 percent increase; and 51st in growth of firm revenues, with a -0.1 percent decrease. Arizona currently has an estimated 12,280,200 woman-owned businesses, employing 9,184,500 and attributing to roughly $1,757,210,100,000

Phoenix is ranked 16th in growth of number of woman-owned firms among the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas, with 73.4 percent increase over the past 11 years; 45th in growth of jobs created, with a 5.2 percent increase; and 41stin growth of firm revenues, with a 17.1 percent increase.

What are some of the realities of the people inside the statistics? Some differences are securely tied to gender and minority status. “Women earn less in the workplace, so they are less likely to have saved money to start their business,” Stengel says. And there is a difference between necessity entrepreneurship and opportunity entrepreneurship. An opportunity entrepreneur sees a need in the marketplace and believes she is the right person to fill that need. These entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful than necessity entrepreneurs, according to Stengel, who explains that the necessity entrepreneur is more likely to go back into the workforce when the economy improves. “Through the recession and recovery of 2007 to 2018, there was tremendous growth in all woman-owned businesses (58 percent), but especially among women of color (163 percent). The reason was necessity entrepreneurship; women of color were more likely to have lost their job or needed to supplement their existing job.”

Others are generational differences, which, Stengel points out, apply to men as well as to women. “In name and self-perception, millennials are the most entrepreneurial. In reality, they are the least.” This is due, she explains, to student debt — of which baby boomers have the least, with Gen X falling in the middle. “Successful entrepreneurs tend to start later in life — late 30s into their 40s — as that is when you have accumulated business experience and connections that can help you succeed, as well financial resources.” Noting that in addition to connections that help access capital, they would have saved money to bootstrap their business, Stengel adds, “Millennials would have saved less money because they are still paying off student debt.”

Trend in Growth of Women-Owned Firms by State, 2002-2018

Total US 2002 2007 2012 2016 (est.) 2017 (est.) 2018 (est.) % Change 2007-2018 % Change 2017-2018
Number of Firms


7,793,139 9,878,397 11,313,900 11,615,600 12,280,200 57.6%




7,579,876 8,431,614 8,976,100 8,985,200 9,184,500 21.2%


Sales ($000)


$1,202,115,758 $1,419,834,295 $1,622,763,800 $1,663,991,700 $1,757,210,100 46.2%


Number of Firms 109,748 138,080 182,425 203,200 202,900 212,100 53.6% 4.5%
Employment 128,926 147,392 144,906 149,500 147,900 150,200 1.9% 1.6%
Sales ($000) $15,761,202 $21,795,502 $22,692,789 $24,669,700 $24,035,000 $25,119,400 15.3% 4.5%

Trend in Growth of Women-Owned Firms in Top 50 Metropolitan Areas, 2002-2018

Phoenix 2002 2007 2012 2016 (est.) 2017 (est.) 2018 (est.) % Change 2007-2018 % Change 2017-2018
Number of Firms


83,379 121,689 136,700 138,300 144,500 73.3%




102,518 102,632 106,500 105,700 107,800 5.2%


Sales ($000)


$15,911,873 $16,545,275 $18,040,900 $17,750,500 $18,627,800



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