Women have always faced unique obstacles and challenges in the business world. The cumulative effects are laid bare in one stunning fact from the Glass Ceiling Index created by The New York Times: there are more chief executives of Fortune 500 companies named “James” than there are total female chief executives.
If you expand the view to all businesses based in America’s top 50 metropolitan areas, you discover that just 30% have a woman at the helm. Whether using a micro or macro view, it’s clear that women simply aren’t given equal opportunities to thrive. For example, only about 2% of venture capital funding goes to businesses led by women. That percentage gets even smaller when you look at the amount of funding that goes to minority women.
Given these troubling disparities, you might be wondering what areas of the country are the most favorable for women looking to start and run a small business. One study examined factors such as the rate of self-employed and “incorporated” women, income earned by self-employed women, business earnings for self-employed women compared to wage earners, and the parity of business ownership between women and men.
As has often been the case, California fared well on the top 10 list. The top 2 cities, and 5 total, are found in the Golden State. Here’s the complete list:
If you’re looking for trends, the West Coast appears to be extremely supportive of female businesses. The southern region of the country is also well represented, with Tennessee and North Carolina making the top 5.
You definitely shouldn’t look at this list as the 10 sure-fire cities that all female entrepreneurs should flock to. The factors that determine the rankings ebb and flow, and cities that made the top 10 last year are nowhere to be seen on this year’s list.
Rather, lists such as these reveal regions of the nation that share positive traits. If you’d like to evaluate your current location, simply hold it up to the same standards. Is there a high rate of self-employed women? How much income do these women earn? And how do women’s opportunities compare with men’s?
Many of these factors will vary depending on your industry. Nationwide, women who own businesses relating to real estate, insurance, food services, finance, or accommodations typically have the smallest income disparities when compared to their male counterparts. The industries that can be the most lopsided in favor of men include utilities, management, and information.
These trends don’t mean that you should give up if you’re running a business in a male-dominated industry. But you should understand the headwinds you’ll likely face. By anticipating these unfair challenges, you’ll be able to navigate your career in a smoother and more successful fashion.
Likewise, you can take it as a personal challenge if you live in a part of the country that doesn’t offer as many opportunities for female business owners. There may not be as many female entrepreneurs, and the pay gap might be more substantial in your city, but you can be part of the positive forces that begin to correct these unfortunate trends.
In case you’re wondering, the researchers who compiled the top 10 cities also provided the 3 bottom dwellers on the list. All happen to be among America’s former industrial hubs:
Regardless of whether you live in Buffalo or Boston, you’ll see the most success as a female entrepreneur if you join with other women. There’s been an influx in recent years of resources and opportunities for women who want to run their own businesses.
One great opportunity is Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp. This 2-week event is held quarterly at their headquarters and allows you to gain experience in their advanced tech lab, bolster your business ideas, and get 1-on-1 mentoring.
You can also leverage superb resources from the comfort of your home. The Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship, created in partnership with Cornell University, provides curriculum from Cornell’s faculty plus a wide range of other resources to help you thrive.
A couple of other networking channels you should take advantage of include Facebook’s Community Finder tool, which was created to help businesswomen around the world connect and support each other, and the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership program, which offers business consulting, leadership training, and certification courses.
Wherever you live and whatever type of business you run, know that you’re not alone. There’s a powerful network of female entrepreneurs standing by to assist you in your goals. All you need to do is reach out and make it happen.