Developments in Women-Owned Businesses, 1997-2007

Release Date: 
Friday, September 30, 2011 - 4:00am
Release Number: 
11-29 ADV
Patrick Morris

Washington, D.C. – A new study by the Office of Advocacy looks at developments in women-owned businesses between 1997 and 2007, using data from the Census Bureau’s Surveys of Business Owners. This dynamic period was marked by rapid growth overall, with a slowdown during the 2000-2001 recession, followed by strong growth in 2002-2007. Women’s share of total U.S. firms increased from 26 percent in 1997 to almost 29 percent by 2007.

“In a series of roundtables across the country, we heard from women business owners that they face many of the same challenges other small business owners face—particularly challenges related to access to capital and regulatory burdens,” said Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant. “This research places women-owned businesses in the context of the wider business community and will provide valuable information for policymakers as we move forward.”

The study, Developments in Women-owned Business, 1997-2007, compares the characteristics of firms owned by women with those owned by men, as well as those that are publicly held or not identifiable by the gender of their owners. The study finds that 12 percent of women-owned businesses were employers in 2007, while 88 percent were nonemployers. Women-owned businesses accounted for 4 percent of total business receipts in 2007.

Women-owned firms employed 6.4 percent of the 118.6 million employees of employer firms in 2007. The top four sectors for employer firms owned by women were retail trade, professional services, health care and social assistance, and accommodations. In five states and the District of Columbia, the number of women-owned businesses per 1,000 persons was greater than 30 in 2007.

The report is based on U.S. firm information from the 1997, 2002, and 2007 Surveys of Business Owners, the latest three comprehensive datasets released by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. To view the full report, visit

Additionally, the Office of Advocacy earlier this year hosted a series of roundtable discussions in each of the ten SBA regions on this topic. The events, convened by Advocacy’s Regional Advocates, brought together women from all walks of life to discuss the status of women-owned businesses, the challenges and successes. A summary can be found at

The Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent voice for small business within the federal government. The presidentially appointed Chief Counsel for Advocacy advances the views, concerns, and interests of small business before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, federal courts, and state policymakers. Regional advocates and an office in Washington, D.C., support the Chief Counsel’s efforts. For more information, visit, or call (202) 205-6533.

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