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Women Are Flexing Their Business Muscles

"Look at women in business today, and you see a distinct, new generation of entrepreneurs. They're experienced, educated and have an appetite for growth." — Julie Weeks, Director of Research, Center for Women's Business Research

The 1990s saw the start of phenomenal growth in the area of businesses started and owned by women. We're not talking about little, hope-to-make-a-go-of-it, knick-knack boutiques, but big-buck entrepreneurial ventures, many with full-blown payrolls. In fact, a whole generation of women entrepreneurs is achieving solid business success. Most of all, it's not that women are arriving on the business scene. It's that they've arrived and have become firmly established.

"There are now more than 6.2 million women-owned businesses," reports Julie Weeks, Director of Research at the Washington-based Center for Women's Business Research. "They employ 9.2 million workers and have revenues of $1.2 trillion," Weeks said in an interview with New York Life. "Their growth has exceeded the national average for employment and revenue. These businesses making major contributions; they are impacting the economic strength of our country."

Facts About Women-Owned Businesses

  • Women own 28% of the privately-held businesses in the U.S.
  • Between 1997 and 2002, the number of women-owned firms in the U.S. increased at twice the rate of all firms (14% vs. 7%) and employment grew at 1.5 times the national average (30% vs. 18%).
  • Nearly one in four of companies founded by women in the 1990s generate $500,000 or more in annual revenues.
  • As of 2002, there are more than 110,000 women-owned companies with revenues of $1 million or more.
  • More than 40% of women business owners have plans for growth over the next five years.
  • One quarter of women-owned firms started less than 10 years ago have at least 20 employees.
  • As of 2002, nearly 8,500 women-owned companies have more than 100 employees.
(Center for Women's Business Research. Web site:

What marks this new wave of entrepreneurs? They evidence several distinct characteristics not often shared by women who started businesses in the 1980s:

  • Education. "They invest in themselves," explains Weeks. "They're getting college degrees, especially in law and business, in record numbers."
  • Experience. They're not novices to the business world. Many of these women left senior management positions to start their own companies.
  • Capital. These women appreciate the importance of adequate funding. Most of all, they have learned how to attract capital and borrow to finance growth. According to Entrepreneur Magazine (February 2002), "41% of women-owned businesses started in the last decade are actively seeking capital, compared to 25% of those who started earlier."(Entrepreneur Magazine, February 2002,
  • Drive. They are not content to just start a business and then sit back to see what happens. "They have a greater appetite for growth and self-fulfillment as entrepreneurs," says Weeks.

One Area of Concern
Women are closing the male-female gap in business and other important areas. However, many continue to lag behind when it comes to protecting their economic value to their families and to their businesses. "For example," says Weeks, "women are still catching up in terms of their knowledge about insurance."

Part of the reason is that, for many women, regardless of financial achievement, "life insurance is still seen as a luxury, as opposed to a necessity," explained Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP, and Director of the Women's Institute for Financial Education, in an interview with New York Life. "I find that women, by and large, are still more inclined to buy life insurance on their children's lives than on their own." (Author interview, July 14, 2003. Web site:

As a result, life insurance ownership for women in general, for example, is about half that of men ($92,800 vs. $175,300) according to a 1999 "Market Insight" report by the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association.

Whether you are a business tycoon, owner of a one-woman shop, or just thinking about taking the entrepreneurial plunge:

  • Keep on learning. That's how you grow as a business and as a person. Education is the key to success.
  • Secure your sources of capital. At the minimum, stressed business advisor, John R. Ingrisano, in a New York Life interview, "establish a line of credit. Then increase it periodically."
  • Protect your economic value to your business, to your family, and to yourself with adequate life and disability income insurance. That way, should anything happen to you, your income can be replaced.
  • Get good advice. Develop a relationship with your bank or credit union business relations officer. Talk to your accountant about tax-saving and asset-building strategies.

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This material is being provided for informational purposes only. Neither New York Life nor its agents provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Please contact your own advisers for legal, tax and accounting advice.

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