For advertisers targeting an important niche market, Marla Dickerson, LA Times Staff Writer, reviewed the latest US Census Economic Survey (latest 1997) that reports that revenue for the nation's 5.4 million women-owned firms reached $818.7 billion in 1997. That's up 33% on an adjusted basis compared with 1992. Those companies employed 7.1 million workers, up 28% on an adjusted basis from five years before. Updated every five years, she points out, the economic census is conducted separately from the better-known population survey whose 2000 figures are starting to be released.
Despite the increases in numbers, revenue and employees, women-owned businesses remain disproportionately small. As of 1997, privately held, women-owned firms made up 26% of the nation's businesses, but accounted for only 4.4% of total receipts.
- 70% of women-owned businesses had less than $25,000 in annual revenue, compared with about half of businesses overall.
- 16% of women-owned businesses had employees, compared with one-quarter of all firms.
- there were 3.6 million of jointly owned husband-and-wife firms.
According to Bruce Rosenthal, spokesman for the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, the new census data aren't capturing the activity of the largest women-owned firms. Publicly held firms controlled by women no longer qualify under the new census guidelines. Nor do fast-growing private firms whose female owners take on venture partners, diluting their controlling stake to less than 51%. "The irony is that as the business gets larger and more sophisticated, it's dropped from the count," he said.
There is a shift in the way the Census Bureau defines and counts women-owned firms. As of this census, businesses that were 50% women-owned, raising the ownership bar to 51%, were excluded to conform with guidelines set down by other government agencies. Publicly held firms also were dropped from the 1997 count.
Alberto Alvarado, director of the Los Angeles district office of the Small Business Administration, said that whether the number of women-owned firms is measured at 6.4 million or 5.4 million might be interesting for armchair theoreticians, but the reality is that women continue to form new businesses at a rapid rate." And, Lynn King, deputy director of the federally funded National Women's Business Council advisory panel says that "Women-owned businesses continue to be a potent force in the economy."
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