Cities With the Most Female Business Owners

Business owner woman-TC506K

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

By Lauren Bringle, AFC®

Female workers face a number of challenges, including inequities in pay and underrepresentation in certain industries and occupations. And while the share of female business owners is on the rise, women still own far fewer businesses than men. While women account for 48 percent of all workers nationally, they make up just 38.4 percent of business owners according to data from the Census Bureau. Among owners of incorporated businesses, women are even more scarce, accounting for just one-third of incorporated business owners.

The share of female business ownership has increased by several percentage points over the last decade, going from 35.2 percent in 2010 to 38.4 percent in 2019. Women start businesses for many of the same reasons as men—namely, to be their own boss, to follow a passion, or to pursue a new opportunity. But women are much more likely than men to cite increased flexibility and the ability to control their schedules as important motivators in starting their own businesses.

Female business ownership is on the rise in the United States

Although female business ownership is becoming more common, women are less likely than men to incorporate their businesses. While 41 percent of unincorporated business owners are women, they account for only 33 percent of incorporated business owners. In addition to advantages such as personal asset protection and tax benefits, business incorporation provides easier access to capital. As such, the difference in incorporation rates across men- and women-owned businesses contributes to the gap in earnings and funding between male and female businesses.

Chart2 Women are less likely than men to incorporate their businesses

In every sector of employment, men tend to earn more than women. Whether employed at private companies, working in government, or self-employed, men earn an average of 25 percent more than women. Furthermore, self-employed women in unincorporated businesses actually earn even less than women employed in any other sector. Even women who own incorporated businesses still earn less than women in almost every other sector.

Chart3 Women have less financial incentive than men to be self-employed

Female business ownership rates vary significantly on a geographic basis. Female business ownership is more prevalent on the West Coast and less common in the Midwest. At the state level, Hawaii and Oregon boast the largest share of business owners who are female, at 46 and 44.6 percent, respectively. Conversely, New Hampshire and North Dakota have the lowest rates of female business ownership, at 32.6 and 30.9 percent, respectively.


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Chart4 Hawaii, Oregon, and WA have the most female business owners

To find the metropolitan areas with the most female business owners, researchers at Self Financial analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the percentage of business owners who are female. Researchers also calculated the total number of female business owners, the total number of female business owners for both incorporated and unincorporated firms, and the most active industry for female business owners.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000–349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000–999,999
  • Large metros: 1,000,000 or more

Here are the metropolitan areas with the most female business owners.

Chart5 The small and midsize metros with the most female business owners

Large Metros with the Most Female Business Owners

15 Arizona Phoenix-PAN2Y4 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 41.2%
  • Total number of female business owners: 96,013
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 33,264
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 62,749
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

14 Indiana Indianapolis KWPHPX Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 41.8%
  • Total number of female business owners: 33,262
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 11,162
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 22,100
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

13 Utah Salt Lake City-D44ETX Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Salt Lake City, UT

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 41.9%
  • Total number of female business owners: 22,473
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 7,781
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 14,692
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Other Services, Except Public Administration

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12 Missouri Kansas City-PTNJGN Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. Kansas City, MO-KS

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 41.9%
  • Total number of female business owners: 38,671
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 12,342
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 26,329
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

11 Maryland Baltimore GYFB3E Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

11. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 41.9%
  • Total number of female business owners: 51,245
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 15,113
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 36,132
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Educational Services, and Health Care and Social Assistance

10 District of Columbia EP3YA6 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 41.9%
  • Total number of female business owners: 120,802
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 37,436
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 83,366
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

09 Virginia Richmond-EM4W20 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Richmond, VA

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 42.9%
  • Total number of female business owners: 24,475
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 9,606
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 14,869
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Educational Services, and Health Care and Social Assistance

08 North Carolina Raleigh capitol EM4W1T Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Raleigh-Cary, NC

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 43.1%
  • Total number of female business owners: 29,004
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 10,237
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 18,767
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

07 California San Jose-F2R5D6 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 43.2%
  • Total number of female business owners: 36,364
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 10,611
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 25,753
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Educational Services, and Health Care and Social Assistance

06 California San Francisco-J328FW Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 43.4%
  • Total number of female business owners: 117,086
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 30,048
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 87,038
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

05 Arizona Tucson-MWRFTC Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Tucson, AZ

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 43.5%
  • Total number of female business owners: 20,802
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 5,107
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 15,695
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

04 Virginia Virginia Beach-KF1X91 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 43.7%
  • Total number of female business owners: 27,727
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 10,752
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 16,975
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Other Services, Except Public Administration

03 Texas Austin-C1HE8E Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 44.1%
  • Total number of female business owners: 61,150
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 20,641
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 40,509
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

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02 Oregon Portland EA9BWK Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 44.7%
  • Total number of female business owners: 59,373
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 20,707
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 38,666
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

01 Washington Seattle-KJF2A4 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

  • Percentage of business owners who are female: 46.2%
  • Total number of female business owners: 87,953
  • Total number of female business owners (incorporated firms): 30,603
  • Total number of female business owners (unincorporated firms): 57,350
  • Most active industry for female business owners: Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The metros with the most female business owners tend to be located in the West and Mid-Atlantic. The Seattle metro area claims the top spot among large metros with the most female business owners. In Seattle, 46 percent of business owners are female, amounting to nearly 88,000 female business owners. Among the metros with the most female business owners, the most common industries for female business owners are Professional, Scientific, and Management, and Administrative, and Waste Management Services and Other Services, Except Public Administration.

Across all of the metros with the most female business owners, there are about twice as many female business owners of unincorporated businesses than incorporated businesses. This is true at the national level as well. In comparison, the ratio of male incorporated business owners to male unincorporated business owners is about 1.5. While some metros boast higher female business ownership rates, women are still less likely to incorporate their businesses than men in these locales.

To determine the metros with most female business owners, researchers at Self Financial analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey and the 2018 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS PUMS). The researchers ranked metro areas according to the percent of business owners who are female. In the event of a tie, the metro with more female business owners was ranked higher. Researchers also calculated the total number of female business owners, the total number of female business owners for incorporated and unincorporated firms, and the most active industry for female business owners—defined as the industry with the most female business owners.

Only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000–349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000–999,999
  • Large metros: 1,000,000 or more

Written on November 10, 2020

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