SALT LAKE CITY — The number of businesses in Utah owned by women outpaced the national average in 2011, and the gains in revenues from those businesses were far above those seen in other areas of the country. But despite important gains, statistics for women still lag behind men in many areas, including gaining access to the highest levels of success.
According to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, released by American Express OPEN, there were an estimated 65,100 firms owned by women in Utah. That's a 55 percent increase since 1997.
In terms of sales revenue, the gains were even greater, with a 117 percent increase. That's about $11 million in sales in 2011.
Utah was ranked 4th in the nation for the sales increase and 25th for the increase in firms. Only Wyoming, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia and Louisiana saw greater increases in terms of revenue percentages.
Jana Francis, who left KSL to become owner of a daily deals company called Steals.com, was one of the many women to start a business since 1997. She has been running the group of websites for the last five years and now employs almost 70 people in the state, mostly other women.
Francis said that she's had a good experience starting a firm in Utah, and hasn't experienced the barriers that other women have.
"Personally, I've had no problem as a woman in business, not only starting one but growing one," Francis said.
She attributes that in part to her particular model, which focuses on deals related to kids, babies, scrapbooking and women in general.
"Women are our target audience," she said. That's why she has focused on hiring other women as well, to keep the business as "authentic as possible."
"That has been a benefit, being from Utah, because there are so many family-oriented women in Utah," she said.
Though growth in areas of the economy owned and run by women has been steady, there is still much more ground to cover. For instance, women own only 29 percent of all enterprises, employ only 6 percent of the work force and bring in only 4 percent of the revenue.
Further, women are still predominantly involved in industries that traditionally have been assigned to women, like health care and education. Those industries are 52 percent and 46 percent women-owned respectively.
The report also says that women have not yet moved up into the highest levels of achievement. Most business are small, and not many women are, for instance, owners of large multi-million-dollar firms.
"In terms of both revenue and employment, the share of women-owned firms at the highest levels of business accomplishment has remained essentially unchanged over the past 14 years," the report states. "In 1997, 2.5 percent of women-owned firms had 10 or more employees, and 1.8 percent had $1 million or more in revenues. As of 2011, 1.9 percent of women-owned firms have 10 or more employees and 1.8 percent have $1 million or more in revenues."