More and more businesswomen in U.S.

The number of women-owned businesses, many of them one-person enterprises, grew at twice the national rate for all private companies from 1997 to 2002, with the biggest increases in Nevada and Georgia. About 28 percent of private companies were owned by women in 2002, according to the report released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

The report focused on privately owned companies, as opposed to those with publicly traded stocks. "I think we're making tremendous progress," said Sharon Hadary, executive director of the Center for Women's Business Research. "What I would like to see is more progress in expansion of the businesses, with more access to capital, networks and markets."

The report is based on the Census Bureau's 2002 survey of 1.9 million business owners. It defines female-owned businesses as firms in which women own 51 percent or more of the interest or stock.

The report identified 6.5 million firms with female owners, an increase of 20 percent from 1997. About 13.2 million businesses were owned by men, an increase of 16 percent. The number of all private businesses grew 10 percent to about 23 million. About 2.7 million firms were owned equally by men and women.

The number of women-owned businesses grew by 43 percent in Nevada and 35 percent in Georgia during the five-year period. Most of the women-owned businesses had no employees other than the owner. But that's true for all private businesses. According to census data, 76 percent of all private businesses had no employees other than the owner in 2002.

Susan Phillips Bari, president of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, said businesses owned by women can have a hard time accessing capital and markets. "The number of women-owned businesses is astounding," Bari said. "Our issue is not with the number of businesses, but rather with their access to contracts in the government and private sector, which would allow them to grow."

Bari said women-owned businesses landed fewer than 3 percent of federal contracts and about 4 percent of corporate contracts last year. Among the census report's findings for 2002:

Nearly a third of women-owned businesses were concentrated in health care and social services. There were 117,069 women-owned firms with receipts of $1 million or more. There were 7,240 women-owned firms with 100 or more employees. The counties with the most women-owned businesses were Los Angeles County (265,919), Cook County in Illinois (130,418), Miami-Dade County in Florida (88,173), New York County (86,364) and Harris County in Texas (86,042), reports the AP. N.U.

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