On the surface, statistics gathered over the past few years seem to show that the number of female business-owners in the U.S. is on the rise, a point often repeated by members of the media and the government.
However, when the numbers are considered in relation to the fact that the entire American labour force is increasing, the stats look different: entrepreneurship among the fairer sex has actually fallen slightly over the past decade, in relative terms.
Scott Shane of Case Western Reserve University analyses the data to show this decrease and questions whether some societal element is preventing women from becoming their own bosses.
From OPEN Forum:
There’s a tendency for policy makers and the media to argue that entrepreneurship is growing among women. In fact, many publications present data that compares the numbers of women business owners or self-employed over time to show that the numbers are on the rise.
Take, for example, how the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration presents data on self-employment among women in its 2009 Small Business Economy publication (link). The chart shows the number of male and female self-employed in 2000 and 2007 and the percentage change in the number for each between the two years. The number for the women is up, suggesting that female self-employment is rising.
But this way of looking at the data is deceptive because the labour force is growing as the U.S. population increases. So as long as self-employment among women doesn’t completely tank, we should see an increase in the absolute number of self-employed women over time.
The data in the table provide a clue that women aren’t becoming more likely to be self-employed. From 2000-2007, the SBA data show that the number of male self-employed grew faster than the number of female self-employed (17.3 per cent versus 9.7 per cent). So if you do the maths and look at the female share of self-employed, you can see that it fell from 34.8 per cent of the total to 33.3 per cent in 2007.
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