Mass ranks low for growth of women-owned businesses

Massachusetts ranks among the bottom of all states when it comes to the growth of women-owned businesses, according to a new report.

The annual “State of Women-Owned Businesses” report by American Express ranks Massachusetts 46th in the growth of women-owned firms from 2007 to 2018. In that time period, women-owned businesses grew about 20 percent in Massachusetts, compared to about 58 percent in the U.S. overall, the report found. Boston also ranked 48th out of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas in the growth of women-owned firms.The state with the biggest growth of women-owned businesses is Florida with an 87.8 percent increase since 2007, followed by Georgia (87.6 percent), Michigan (72.1 percent), Tennessee (68 percent) and South Carolina (67.9 percent).

But the low Massachusetts ranking shouldn’t cause too much pause, according to Geri Stengel, a research adviser for American Express.

“After the recession, many women had to start businesses out of necessity.” Stengel said. “[Massachusetts] may have recovered more quickly from the recession, so you’re not seeing the continuing surge in the numbers.”

The state’s economy has been relatively strong with low unemployment.

Stengel said demographics may also come into play. Much of the growth of women-owned businesses has been driven by women of color, according to the report. And Stengel said other states have larger populations of these groups.

“Since the recession, women of color have been becoming entrepreneurs by the droves,” Stengel said. “And that trend has not stopped. So even though the economy has improved, there still is a need for women of color to either be supplementing their income through entrepreneurship or because they are ambitious and they want to build wealth.”

While the number of women-owned business in the U.S. grew 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, businesses owned by women of color grew nearly three times that rate — 163 percent — according to the report. The fastest growth was among black women (172 percent) and Latinas (164 percent). And as of 2018, women of color account for 47 percent of all women-owned businesses, according to the report.

Stengel said the overall findings of the report show a need for state, local and federal governments to continue supporting women-owned businesses. According to the report, employment by women-owned businesses grew 21 percent from 2007-2018, while employment decreased almost 1 percent among all businesses. And revenues generated by women-owned firms grew 46 percent, while revenues for all businesses grew 36 percent.

The report is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey of business owners and analysis of GDP data.

This article first appeared on the WBUR 90.9FM website on Sept. 4. WBUR and the Reporter have a partnership in which the two news organziations share resources and stories.