A recent report on women-owned businesses in Vermont shows that proportionately nearly twice as many working-age women own businesses, compared to the national average.
But the report also says they’re smaller and concentrated in fields that don’t generate as much revenue as male-owned businesses.
The information for the report, called Women’s Business Ownership and the Vermont Economy, was gleaned largely from 2012 Census Bureau data.
“It’s telling us that in some ways women-owned businesses are doing really great compared to the national average and in some ways we’ve got a long way to go,” says Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women.
The report says one-third of all privately held firms in Vermont are owned by women, meaning about twice as many are male-owned. Women make up 51 percent of Vermont’s working-age population.
It calls the difference in revenue between businesses owned by men and those owned by women “staggering.”
Brown says that’s because there aren’t many women-owned businesses among the top 10 sectors, which include manufacturing, finance and insurance, construction and trade.
“We do know that women tend to own businesses in fields where women also tend to work more, which tend to be fields that pay less money — and when they run businesses they generate less revenue,” she says.
The report was put together by Change The Story, a coalition of Vermont organizations that includes the Commission on Women, the Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women.
The group is focused on improving women’s economic status.
Change the Story Director Tiffany Bleumle says it stands to reason that women are underrepresented as owners in the same business sectors where they’re underrepresented as employees.
“They’re not generally going to own businesses in construction or manufacturing or transportation until there are more women in those fields,” she says.
Bluemle says part of the answer to improving women’s economic status and business ownership lies in educating young women about career choices and overcoming barriers to jobs that are dominated by men.
“Just as occupational segregation limits the income of individual women, the clustering of women in certain occupational categories, so does segregation of women-owned businesses in fields where revenues are generally a lot lower,” Bluemle says.
Blueme says there is no single answer to creating greater parity between men and women in careers and business ownership, nor is there any short-term solution. She says it will take a sustained effort on many fronts.
“These patterns won’t change substantially until it becomes a priority and routine practice to think about gender and diversity in all the situations we encounter, the decisions that we make about public policy, the courses we offer in our schools about the exposure we give to our own children to various careers,” she says.
The report on women and business ownership in Vermont is the third in a series put out by Change the Story. Others analyze occupational and wage disparities affecting women.
Editor's note: Tiffany Bluemle is a co-host of the VPR partner podcast No Makeup.