Off the Charts

Closing the Gender Gap

Women-owned companies now account for 29 percent of all businesses in the U.S.

Lafayette's economy has historically been led by the traditionally male-dominated energy industry; however, as women entrepreneurs across America create jobs, optimism and opportunities, we see the women of Acadiana adopting our famous "wildcatter mentality" and joining their male counterparts in the business arena to the benefit of themselves and our community.

And change is good. Women are impacting much more than how business gets done in America - they are shaping and redefining the workplace, the nation's business networks, financial institutions and our culture. Women-owned businesses along with other minority-owned businesses play a unique role in diversifying the business community's outlook and have successfully changed the economic landscape. The growing number of women- and minority-owned businesses in Acadiana allows our residents more diverse and competitive services and goods by providing more locally-owned options. And because historically women represent a larger percentage of the consumer makeup and often determine where dollars are spent, women-owned businesses are apt to provide a more consumer-centric experience and yield high returns for those efforts further building our local GDP.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners, there are 7.8 million women-owned firms employing 7.5 million people and generating sales of nearly $1.2 trillion in the U.S. The growth of women entrepreneurs in the country has been impressive - there were 1.3 million more women-owned businesses in the U.S. than when the survey was last conducted.

And overall, women-owned businesses account for 29 percent of all businesses in the U.S.

American Express Open estimates the total number of women-owned firms in Louisiana has grown to 109,000 in 2011, employing 109,600 people with sales of $24.1 billion. In fact, Louisiana ranks fifth nationally in the growth of women-owned firms since 1997, with 54.5 percent growth. Over the past 14 years, the number of women-owned businesses has grown at 1.5 times the national average.

SBO results show there are 6,996 women-owned firms, employing 10,725 individuals with sales of more than $1.9 billion in the Lafayette MSA. Specifically in Lafayette Parish there are 5,874 firms, employing 8,907 individuals with sales of $1.5 billion. That's quite an impact on the economy.

In what industries do women entrepreneurs open businesses? The distribution among industries of women-owned businesses is fairly uniform from the national level to the state and local levels. In recent years, women-owned firms are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of industry, with more women expanding into predominately male industries, such as construction and mining (including oil and gas). The chart on the previous pages shows that male run businesses don't dominate every industry; instead, women-owned businesses are well-represented. It seems as if women owners are most predominant in businesses that create wealth by bringing talent to those who need it. The largest percentage of women-owned businesses are those that provide services (professional, personal care, etc.), followed by health care and retail trade.

This industry distribution is also reflected in overall female employment. Women make up 47 percent of the national workforce, and employment is dominated by females in health care (79%), in education (69%) and in finance, insurance and real estate (55%). On the opposite end, women only make up 9 percent of the construction workforce and 13 percent in mining.

Factoids about Women-Owned Businesses:
Source: State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, American Express Open
Between 1997 and 2011, when the number of businesses in the U.S. increased by 34%, the number of women-owned firms increased by 50%-a rate of 1 1/2 times the national average.
Despite accounting for 29% of all businesses in the U.S., women-owned firms only employ 6% of the country's workforce.
Equally-owned and women-owned firms represent 46% of U.S. firms and contribute 13% of total employment.
The industries with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms over the past eight years are: education services (up 54%), administrative and waste services (47%), and construction (41%). There are two industries in which growth in the number of firms, along with growth in employment and revenue, have outpaced industry-level growth: construction and mining (including oil and gas).
The states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms over the past 14 years are: Georgia, Nevada, Mississippi, North Carolina and Louisiana.
The states in which the revenues of women-owned firms have increased well above the national average of 53.4% over the past 14 years are: Wyoming, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, Utah and Louisiana.

Gregg Gothreaux is president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.