Research shows female entrepreneurship in Utah is growing

Salt Lake City— A new research brief released by the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University reports that, across Utah and throughout the nation, women are increasingly becoming business owners and entrepreneurs.

Nationally, businesses owned by women grew 3.9 percent annually, more than double the rate for all businesses. In Utah, the trend is similar. In 2016, the state was ranked eighth for women-owned businesses, 11th in growth by number of firms, fourth in growth by revenue, and 30th in growth by employment. By 2019, it rose to sixth in the nation in economic clout for women-owned businesses, 10th in employment growth, fifth for revenue growth, and 12th in number of firms.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, however.

“There is a stark disparity between male and female entrepreneurs,” according to one of the brief’s authors Dr. Susan Madsen. “Women own nearly three in ten businesses and yet they are seldom the primary operator in spouse-owned enterprises. In addition, Utah women-owned businesses are dramatically underrepresented in the most lucrative fields, including construction – where men own 8.5 times more businesses than women do – and in professional, scientific, and technical services, where men own 5.5 times more business than women do.”

This is just the surface of the deeply rooted challenges female entrepreneurs face. According to the brief, there is a 65 percent gap between state’s capacity for childcare and the need for the service. Childcare in Utah, particularly for infants, is more expensive than tuition at most of Utah’s four-year universities.

In addition, women have reported that investors ask men seeking loans about the potential for gains and ask women about the potential for losses. Women generally request smaller loans than men would for a similar business. In 2017 female-owned firms in Utah were included in only two of 110 venture capital deals.

While this can be deflating, free help is available. One resource is the Women’s Business Center of Utah. From 2017 to 2019, the center’s clients created 1,238 new jobs and earned $77.7 million. More than half its clients self-identified as home-based businesses. And there are many additional resources available. For an comprehensive list, visit the resources page provided by the Women & Leadership Project.

For more information, including strategies for how to support women entrepreneurs, view the full research brief here.