Women’s presence and importance in the workplace has steadily increased, reflected by a labor participation rate that’s close to all-time highs. However, the persistence of a glass ceiling in many industries has limited career growth.
With March being Women’s History Month, as well as having International Women’s Day, we conducted a study on women-owned business. We analyzed government data to find the industries and where women-owned businesses are most prominent.
Table of Contents
- 21.4% of U.S. businesses are women-owned, compared to 61% being men-owned and 14% which are evenly split. Women make up approximately 46.6% of the total U.S. labor force.
- Health care & social assistance (32.8%) and educational services (30.6%) industries have the highest share of women-owned businesses.
- Asheville, NC has the highest rate of women-owned businesses in the U.S. In the Asheville metro, 25% of businesses are women-owned. Coming in right behind Asheville are St. Louis (24.84%) and Denver (24.8%).
- Mobile, AL has the lowest percentage of women-owned businesses at 11.9%, the bottom metro in our study. Just above Mobile are Lancaster, PA and York PA at 12.5% and 14.4%, respectively.
- 1 in 3 women-owned businesses are in health care and social assistance or professional, scientific, and technical services. 34.2% of all women-owned businesses are in these two industries.
What Percentage of Businesses are Women-Owned?
In the United States, 21.4% of all businesses are women-owned. However, there is a significant gap between women-owned and men-owned as 61% of businesses are owned by men.
This is despite the fact that the workforce is approximately 46.6% women. According to the BLS, the women’s labor force participation rate is nearly at an all-time high of 57.4%, just 2.6 points below the peak in 1999 at 60.0%.
Metros with the Highest Percentage of Women-Owned Businesses
Asheville, NC is where women-owned businesses are most prominent, according to our analysis. The metro has the highest percentage of women-owned businesses in the U.S. at 25%. Below is a table with more details on Asheville as well as the rest of the top 10.
Coming in right behind Asheville are St. Louis (24.84%) and Denver (24.8%), nearly tied but the Missouri metro came in just higher than Denver. Rounding out the top five are Washington, DC and Atlanta metros with 24.6% and 23.9%, respectively.
Asheville has a number of programs aimed at promoting women in business, including the WomanUp initiative. It focuses on helping women build a strong network to achieve their potential and support each other in business.
Metros with the Lowest Percentage of Women-Owned Businesses
Mobile, AL has the lowest percentage of women-owned businesses, coming in at just 11.9%. Below is a table with the rest of the metros in the bottom 10.
Two Pennsylvania metros, Lancaster and York, are just ahead of Mobile with 12.5% and 14.4%, of businesses being owned by women, respectively. Rounding out the rest of the bottom five are Salt Lake City, UT (14.8%) and Modesto, CA (15.1%).
Top Industries for Women-Owned Businesses
More than 1 in 3 women-owned businesses are in health care and social assistance or professional, scientific, and technical services. Those two industries make up 34.2% of all women-owned businesses.
While only 21.4% of all businesses are owned by women, there are several industries that exceed the norm. Health care and social assistance has a 32.8% share, the highest, followed closely by educational services at 30.6%.
Overheard on Conference Calls analyzed the 2021 U.S. Census Bureau Annual Business Survey which provides 2020 data, the most recent data available, to rank the metros with the highest percentage of women-owned businesses.
The research team compared the total number of women-owned businesses against the total number of all businesses to find the share by metro. We ranked the metros with the highest share (percentage) to lowest share.
The team researched the largest 150 metros by population and compiled it into a list of 100. Because of data availability, some metros were not included although they have a high population. This is because of the unreliable data from the survey.