How many businesses and which types of businesses are owned by women? DC compared to the nation.

The U.S. Census Bureau released preliminary figures today on the characteristics of businesses ownership in the nation based on 2012 data from the Survey of Business Owners. In this post we examine how many businesses are owned by women, comparing DC to the nation and examining how these figures have changed over time. Though women comprise the majority of the nation’s (and the District’s) population, women are still a minority in terms of owning a business.

Here’s what the data show for DC, the nation and the four largest states.

Business Ownership by Gender, DC and the Nation


Key Highlights

  • In the District, almost 45 percent of non-publicly owned businesses are owned by women. This is significantly higher than the nationwide average of 36 percent.
  • If these preliminary estimates hold up, this represents a considerable increase in female ownership since 2007, when 37.5 percent of businesses in the District were owned by women.
  • Even taking into account the fact that the District has the highest female to male population ratio among states, almost 53 percent versus 51 percent in the nation overall, the female ownership ratio in DC still stands out.
  • Interestingly when it comes to joint female/male owned ownership, the District share is considerable lower than the nationwide average and the other states. This may have to do with the relatively low presence of smaller mom and pop shops in denser urban areas like DC.
  • Looking at what types of business women tend to own, among the major sectors, health and education topped the list. For these types of businesses, women-owned businesses actually represented the majority.
  • Ownership of management holding companies, construction and transportation tended to be male dominated.
  • The sectoral composition of DC’s economy, towards service sectors where women are more likely to own businesses, also explains why female ownership is higher in the District compared to the nation.

Business Ownership by Gender and Sector:5Source: U.S. Census Bureau, DISTRICTMEASURED.COM

We will provide further updates on this data including characteristics of minority owner businesses and metro level data.

What exactly is the data?

Data are based on the 2012 Economic Census, and the estimates of business ownership by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status are from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners. Detail categories will not sum to the total because the ‘publically held and other firms not classifiable by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status’ category is not included in the preliminary tables. For further details on methodology and data issues click here. These data are preliminary and are subject to revisions.



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