Ms. Business

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If you can't beat them, leave them. That's what more and more businesswomen, frustrated with the corporate ladder climb and the glass-ceiling crunch, seem to have done. In 1997, there were 5.4 million women-owned businesses (privately held companies in which women own 51 percent or more of the firm), according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures. But because the definition of “women-owned businesses� has narrowed over the years, the female touch is underestimated when making prior-year comparisons. In 1992, for instance, the census figures indicate there were 6.4 million “women-owned� firms, but back then the definition included firms with 50 percent female ownership and publicly held firms with a majority of female shareholders. Thus, using the old definition, there were actually 7.5 million women-owned businesses in 1997, accounting for a 16 percent growth between 1992 and 1997 — almost three times the rate for all privately held firms.

FEMALE FIRMS

In 1997, there were more than 5.4 million women-owned businesses, and 85 percent of them were sole-proprietorships.

TOTAL NUMBER % OF TOTAL RECEIPTS
Women-Owned Businesses 5,417,034 100% $818.7 billion
Sole-Proprietorships 4,595,571 85% $141.6 billion
Self-Employed 4,295,933 79% $78.3 billion
Corporations 314,659 6% $366.8 billion
Have Paid Employees 846,780 16% $717.8 billion
Have 100+ Employees 7,439 0.1% $248.3 billion
*In 1997, the census defined women-owned businesses as privately held companies in which women own 51 percent or more of the firm.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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