Still plenty of room for new female entrepreneurs

Think entrepreneurship is a “good ole boys’ club”?

Think again. Never have we seen the kinds of numbers we’re currently seeing in terms of women-run businesses. In fact, women own more than 9 million businesses, and those businesses employ a whopping 7.9 million employees. The numbers offer convincing evidence that women are doing their part to get the American economy moving again.

Where the women are

According to this year’s OPEN State of Women-Owned Business report, the states where female-led businesses are on the rise might not be the ones you expect. Here are the states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms over the past 17 years:

■  Georgia, up 118 percent.
■  Texas, up 98 percent.
■  North Carolina, up 91 percent.
■  Nevada, up 91 percent.
■  Mississippi, up 81 percent.

The states that have seen the lowest growth in the number of women-owned firms since 1997 are Alaska, West Virginia, Iowa, Kansas and Vermont.

In terms of industries where women are thriving, health care and social assistance dominated the study, as well as educational services, other services, and administrative support and waste management services. Curious about where women are underrepresented? Construction, transportation and warehousing, wholesale trade, and finance and insurance topped the list.

Getting any ideas about starting a business in one of these industries, ladies?

Growing numbers, but fewer loans and contracts

Despite the year-over-year growth of women-owned businesses, women are taking out fewer loans (or perhaps, being approved for fewer) than their male counterparts. For every $23 lent to a small business, only $1 goes to a woman-run company.

Women are also not as well represented in the government-contracting realm. While Congress set a goal several years ago to award 5 percent or more of federal contracts to women, that hasn’t happened yet.

Changes may be on the horizon. Recently, the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014 was presented in Washington, designed to boost these lending and contracting numbers, as well as give female entrepreneurs more business resources.

Resources for women

If you’re one of the many proud women who run a business, I salute you. It’s a challenge to be an entrepreneur period, let alone in an uneven playing field.

Here are some of the resources that are available to you as a female business owner:

■  The U.S. Small Business Administration has resources for everyone, but its Women-Owned Business section includes info on government contracting, loans and more.
■  Women Impacting Public Policy is for those passionate about making changes on Capitol Hill.
■  National Association of Women Business Owners has local branches, allowing you to meet women like you.

Let’s make next year’s statistics even better! Encourage women you know to start their own business, and be a mentor to them. ●