Across the United States, women are taking the lead in business ownership. At last count, women owned more than 9 million businesses nationwide. In fact, recent data from SCORE shows that women-owned businesses are growing 1.5 times faster than the national average, and the trend particularly benefits female business owners of color: a National Women’s Business Council study found that Hispanic and black women are dramatically outpacing their Asian and white counterparts in business ownership.
On Thumbtack, 200,000 skilled professionals offer 1,100 types of services and women represent 40 percent of small business owners, on par with U.S. Census Bureau data. What’s more, a majority of women are in it for the long term, with 64 percent reporting that their businesses represent their primary employment — not a side job to make extra money.
So what are the best places for women to start a business in the U.S. today?
Our analysts studied our proprietary marketplace data to determine the places where women are most optimistic about their prospects (i.e., where they’re happiest running a business) and we surveyed 20,557 women from January to June 2016 who own small businesses on Thumbtack.
What we found was surprising: Seven of the top 10 cities for women to start a business are in the South including Tulsa, Oklahoma, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama.
Women Are Most Optimistic in Southern Cities and States
Similarly, seven of the top 10 states were in the South as well, including Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia which were the top three overall.
Female business owners in southern states are the most optimistic and the most likely to find their governments supportive. Women in western states like Utah, Colorado, and Oregon also said their governments do enough to help them succeed.
Southern and Western State Governments Seen As Most Supportive
We also saw good news for women on the issue of the gender pay gap. Overall the trend is that women make on par or more than their male counterparts.
Interestingly, however, Thumbtack data shows that women tend to be less optimistic than their male counterparts about their own business prospects and the future of the American economy in general. In a time when traditional employment is shifting radically and women are the fastest-growing category of business owners, their perspectives matter more than ever.
We also looked at what professions women are most likely to pursue when starting a business.
Women Thrive in Creative, People-Oriented Businesses
On Thumbtack, women are most likely to operate in skilled professions that draw heavily from creative and interpersonal skills, working in fields like photography, personal training, and catering, while in the broader economy, women are found most often in fields such as healthcare, social assistance, and education.
Want more about which states and cities are friendly to small buisnesses? Check out the 2016 Thumbtack Small Business Friendliness Survey .