Entrepreneurship has always been the backbone of American commerce. In particular, small businesses, which are defined as independently-owned businesses with fewer than 500 employees, are significant drivers of economic growth and job creation. Small businesses comprise 99.9 percent of all firms and are responsible for 66 percent of new jobs.

Entrepreneurship is an essential part of the process known as “creative destruction,” in which new businesses grow while less innovative or profitable ones decline, leading to a process of continuous improvement. Indeed, some of the country’s largest, most successful corporations today were once small businesses that originated in their founder’s garage. Small businesses in their nascent years are known as “startups,” and startup incubators have been popping up all over the country to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Although startup businesses are highly important to the economy, one persistent issue is the entrepreneurship gender gap. Women face numerous challenges in the workforce, including pay gaps and underrepresentation in certain industries, and the startup space is no exception.

“There are a lot of factors that contribute to the gender gap amongst female founders, ranging from societal factors like unconscious bias to a lack of representation within the business community to a venture capital ecosystem that is heavily weighted towards men,” said Jared Lindzon, a journalist covering social justice issues in tech. “Traditionally, young girls have had few successful female entrepreneurs to look up to, few opportunities to receive mentorship and guidance from female entrepreneurs and few female investors to pitch to,” he explained.

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Compared to men, women comprise a smaller percentage of entrepreneurs and start fewer businesses. Currently, only 24.5 percent of startups in their first two years are owned by women, according to the American Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE). But even though the number of female entrepreneurs lags behind that of men, progress has also been made in recent years.

“Fortunately, many of these barriers are beginning to crumble, and the situation is far better for female entrepreneurs today than it was just 10 or even 5 years ago, but by no means is there an equal playing field,” said Lindzon.

In 2016, the total number of female-owned firms was 1,118,863, a 23 percent increase from the 909,661 in 2007. That’s compared to a 6.3 percent increase in male-owned firms. Similarly, the number of paid employees at female-owned firms rose from 7.5 million to 9.3 million over the same time period, a 24 percent gain. Looking specifically at startup businesses, women-owned firms employ more than half of a million people and generate more than $56 billion in revenue annually.

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Interestingly, some industries and locations are more likely to have female entrepreneurs than others. In a new study by Seek Business Capital, its researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Survey of Entrepreneurs to determine which U.S. cities have the most female entrepreneurs and which industries are most likely to have female entrepreneurs. For the purpose of this analysis, the term “startup” is defined as any firm that is less than two years old. Business ownership is defined as having 51 percent or more of the stock or equity in the business. Equally male-/female-owned firms are not included in the female-owned firm counts.

female reports

At a national level, the highest percentage of women-owned startups are in healthcare, as well as educational services, while agriculture and construction have the lowest percentages. In the healthcare and social assistance sector, there’s roughly an even split between male- and female-owned startups, with just over 21,000 male-owned firms and 20,000 female owned firms. Similarly, the educational services sector hosts nearly equal numbers of male and female new businesses.

report by cities

Looking at the geographic distribution of female-owned startups, Missouri and Alaska have the highest percentage of women-owned new businesses, while Idaho, Louisiana, and Maine have the lowest. At the more granular level, here’s the list of which metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) have the most female entrepreneurs, as well as which industries within those metros are the most active for female entrepreneurs (based on total number of female-owned startups).

Top 20 Metros With the Most Female-Owned Startups

tampa female owners

20. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 25.6%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 1,608
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 3,653 (out of 20,133 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $150-$500 million

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

San Francisco

19. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 25.8%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 2,635
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 8,104 (out of 46,177 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $1-$5 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

Portland Female Business Owners

18. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 26.2%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 1,337
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 3,236 (out of 21,363 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $150-$500 million

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Other non-public services

Houston female Workers

17. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 26.6%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 2,783
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 9,378 (out of 55,710 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $1-$5 billion
  • Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

 

Seattle Female Workers

16. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 26.8%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 2,118
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 7,584 (out of 35,555 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $500 million-$1 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Health care and social assistance

Atlanta Female Workers

15. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 27.0%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 2,844
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 10,959 (out of 42,141 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $1-$5 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Health care and social assistance

Denver Female Workers

14. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 27.3%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 1,876
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 7,450 (out of 23,444 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $500 million-$1 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

Los Angeles Female Workers

13. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 27.3%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 8,502
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 26,317 (out of 123,790 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $1-$5 billion
  • Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

 

Virginia Female Workers

12. Richmond, VA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 27.5%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 532
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 1,592 (out of 7,457 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $75-$150 million

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Health care and social assistance

San Jose Female Workers

11. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 28.2%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 1,130
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 4,997 (out of 19,450 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $500 million-$1 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

Baltimore Female Workers

10. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 28.3%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 1,101
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 4,034 (out of 19,280 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $150-$500 million

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Retail trade

Salt Lake City Female Workers

9. Salt Lake City, UT Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 28.6%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 706
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 1,000-2,499 (out of 12,003 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: Insufficient data

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Real estate and rental and leasing

Washington Female Workers

8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 29.0%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 2,755
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 7,499 (out of 39,308 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $1-$5 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

Kansas City Female Workers

7. Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 29.1%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 1,027
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 4,441 (out of 18,608 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $500 million-$1 billion
  • Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Health care and social assistance

Indiana Female Workers

6. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 29.7%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 795
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 3,392 (out of 12,783 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $500 million-$1 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Health care and social assistance

San Diego Female Workers

5. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 30.5%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 2,085
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 10,365 (out of 31,326 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $1-$5 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Professional, scientific, and technical services

Hartford Female Workers

4. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 30.8%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 498
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 3,547 (out of 10,130 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $150-$500 million

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Other non-public services

Providence Female Workers

3. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 30.9%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 718
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 3,168 (out of 7,804 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $150-$500 million

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Administrative, support, waste management & remediation services

Austin Texas Female Workers

2. Austin-Round Rock, TX Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 32.7%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 1,433
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 6,716 (out of 22,856 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $500 million-$1 billion

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Real estate and rental and leasing

St Louis Female Workers

1. St. Louis, MO-IL Metro Area

  • Percentage of startups that are female-owned: 45.2%
  • Number of female-owned startups: 2,726
  • Employees at female-owned startups: 6,257 (out of 17,888 at all startups)
  • Gross sales/receipts of female-owned startups: $150-$500 million

Most active industry for female entrepreneurs: Health care and social assistance

 

Methodology & Full Results

The data used in this analysis is from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE), accessed in February of 2019. The ASE includes employer businesses with receipts of $1,000 or more. It does not include firms in the following industries: Crop and Animal Production; Rail Transportation; Postal Service; Monetary Authorities-Central Bank; Funds, Trusts, and Other Financial Vehicles; Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations; Public Administration; Private Households. The ASE only collects data at the national level, for U.S. states, and for the 50 most populous MSAs.

For the purpose of this analysis, the term “startup” is defined as any firm with less than two years in business. Business ownership is defined as having 51 percent or more of the stock or equity in the business. Equally male-/female-owned firms are not included in the female-owned firm counts. This analysis excludes what the Census defines as “Unclassifiable” firms, which include publicly held, foreign-owned, and not for profits.

Each of the 50 most populous MSAs are ranked by the percentage of startups that are female-owned. Employment and sales/receipts data is provided directly by the ASE. The most active industry for female-owned startups is the industry in each metro with the greatest number of female-owned startup firms.