New Study Documents Dramatic Growth of Women Entrepreneurs in Top 25 Largest U.S. Cities

Mar 1, 2016 11:00 AM ET

March 1, 2016 /3BL Media/ - To commence Women’s History Month, the Center for an Urban Future today published a groundbreaking new study, with support from Capital One’s Future EdgeSM initiative, that reveals a dramatic surge in women entrepreneurs in the nation’s 25 largest cities but also shows that women still face a number of challenges as they start and grow businesses. The report documents that that the number of women-owned businesses in the 25 largest American cities increased by 43 percent over the past five years, far outpacing the overall growth in women-owned businesses nationally (27 percent). Indeed, of the 25 most populous cities in the U.S., only one had a slower growth rate in women-owned businesses than the nation.

The report, titled “Breaking Through: Harnessing the Economic Potential of Women Entrepreneurs”, includes fresh data for each of the 25 largest U.S. cities, specifically the number of women-owned businesses, five-year and 10-year growth rates for the number of women-owned businesses, and revenues per women-owned business.

Among the findings from the report:

  • Of the nation’s 25 most populous cities, Memphis had the fastest growth in women-owned businesses between 2007 and 2012, the most recent year for which data from the U.S. Economic Census is available. The number of women-owned businesses in Memphis increased by 116 percent.
  • Fort Worth had the second highest five-year growth rate, with women-owned firms growing by 78 percent, followed by Atlanta (65 percent), Houston (62 percent), and Dallas (58 percent).
  • Of the 25 largest cities, Dallas ranks first in revenues per women-owned businesses, with $198,599 in average sales. San Antonio was second, with $191,223 in average sales, followed Fort Worth ($186,435), Houston ($181,122), and San Francisco ($175,766).
  • In terms of the overall numbers of women-owned businesses, New York City tops the list, with 413,899—more than double than the second-ranked city, Los Angeles (192,358). Chicago ranks third with 123,632 women owned firms, followed by Houston with 102,813, and Dallas with 52,798.
  • Over the last decade, from 2002–2012, the number of women-owned businesses in the United States increased by 52 percent. This amounts to 928 new businesses every day, adding over 1,290,245 jobs and $90,191,545 billion in payroll to the nation’s economy.
  • Ninety percent of all women-owned businesses in the U.S. have no paid employees.
  • If only one quarter of the existing 8,842,742 women-owned businesses in the United States with no employees added a single employee in the next three years, it would result in more than 2.2 million new jobs.
  • The cities with the slowest growth in women-owned businesses over the past five years include San Diego (which experienced a 20 percent increase in the number of women-owned businesses), San Francisco (27 percent increase), Boston (31 percent), San Jose (32 percent), and Seattle (32 percent).

More detailed data charts can be viewed below.

The report demonstrates that women entrepreneurs have made great strides and economic contributions in recent years; however, it also highlights several challenges that women face as they start and grow businesses and features a number of actionable recommendations to support and promote women entrepreneurship. The report includes an in-depth look at women entrepreneurs in New York City, as well as detailed chapters on the role of women entrepreneurs in four other cities: Atlanta, Dallas, Washington D.C., and San Francisco.

“Women entrepreneurs have become a major catalyst for economic growth in cities across the country, but there is still more that could be done to harness their tremendous economic potential,” says Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future.

“Women are making significant strides as business leaders and entrepreneurs, yet many continue to face common challenges related to managing and securing financing, as well as adopting technology,” said Keri Gohman, head of Small Business Banking at Capital One. “The great news is there are a variety of quality, accessible resources—through organizations and programs like Grameen America, and others—designed to help business owners understand, plan, and communicate their financials effectively.”

This study was made possible through Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, a $150 million, five-year effort to help more American workers and entrepreneurs succeed in the 21st century economy. Through Future Edge, Capital One works with hundreds of leading community organizations empowering women entrepreneurs such as Grameen America, Accion, Kiva, and Learn more at or join the conversation on Twitter at @YourFutureEdge.

Click here for “Women-Owned Businesses in the Nation’s 25 Largest Cities,” our index of graphs detailing the growth of women-owned firms in the 25 most populous cities in the United States.

Click here for “Breaking Through: Harnessing the Economic Potential of Women Entrepreneurs,” our extensive report about women entrepreneurs in New York City, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

The Center for an Urban Future is a New York City–based think tank based that publishes studies about opportunities to grow and diversify the economy in New York and other cities.

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Rate of Growth in Number of Women-Owned Businesses, 25 Most Populous Cities, 2007–2012


Memphis                        116%

Fort Worth                     78%

Atlanta                          65%

Houston                         62%

Dallas                             58%

Detroit                           54%

Indianapolis                     52%

Austin                            51%

Jacksonville                     50%

Charlotte                        50%

El Paso                           48%

Phoenix                         48%

Philadelphia                     46%

San Antonio                   45%

Columbus                       43%

Denver                          41%

Los Angeles                    41%

Washington, D.C.            40%

New York                       36%

Chicago                          34%

Seattle                          32%

San Jose                        32%

Boston                           31%

San Francisco                  27%

USA                              27%

San Diego                      20%



Average Revenues per Women-Owned Businesses, 25 Most Populous Cities, 2012


Dallas                             $198,599

San Antonio                   $191,223

Fort Worth                     $186,435

Houston                         $181,122

San Francisco                  $175,766

Indianapolis                     $170,920

Boston                           $169,020

San Diego                      $163,769

Phoenix                         $163,721

Seattle                          $162,948

Washington, D.C.            $162,495

Austin                            $150,694

Denver                          $150,067

USA                              $143,731

Los Angeles                    $142,378

Atlanta                          $135,772

Charlotte                        $133,467

San Jose                        $132,661

New York                       $128,268

Columbus                       $124,449

Philadelphia                     $111,697

Jacksonville                     $98,762

Memphis                        $98,414

Chicago                          $94,777

El Paso                           $74,462

Detroit                           $58,167



Most Women-Owned Businesses, 25 Most Populous Cities, 2012


New York                       413,899

Los Angeles                    192,358

Chicago                          123,632

Houston                         102,813

Dallas                             52,798

San Diego                      47,942

San Antonio                   44,295

Phoenix                         44,294

Philadelphia                     40,906

San Francisco                  40,135

Detroit                           38,576

Memphis                        35,710

Austin                            34,253

Charlotte                        32,008

Seattle                          29,617

Fort Worth                     29,425

San Jose                        28,981

Jacksonville                     28,749

Denver                          28,725

Atlanta                          28,172

Indianapolis                     27,668

Washington, D.C.            27,064

Columbus                       27,044

El Paso                           21,872

Boston                           19,390