Sonoma County is a good place for women to own businesses, but there is room for improvement.
Those are the results of a new report released from the Sonoma County Economic Development Board Women- Owned Businesses Report in July.
It is the board’s first such report, which also compares Sonoma County with statistics for the U.S.
Between 2007 and 2012, women-owned businesses grew by more than 20 percent, compared to the overall growth of all firms which stayed well below 5 percent.
Despite the growth, however, women-owned businesses tend to produce less revenue and employ fewer workers than their male counterparts, according to the report.
In 2012, 36 percent of all businesses in Sonoma County were owned by women, 27 percent more than a decade earlier.
One possible reason for the growth, the report suggests, is that during the economic downturn, as overall growth slowed, it allowed women entrepreneurs catch up.
The report shows women-owned businesses make up more than half of all businesses in the health care and social assistance sector, but very few in the wholesale trade and manufacturing industries, below 20 percent.
Across the U.S. between 2002-2012, the percentage of revenue generated by women-owned businesses as a portion of all businesses was about 4-5 percent. In Sonoma, in 2012, however, revenues surpassed that amount, at 6.76 percent.
Although the number of women-owned businesses has grown, there are discrepancies when it comes to how many they employ. Sole proprietor accounts for 90 percent of all women-owned businesses across the country, according to the Center for Women in Business.
Sonoma County remains ahead of that national trend, however, employing 7 percent of the workforce across all firms and industries.
Taking that into account, the average number of full-time employees of surveyed businesses was 8.9 and the average number of part-time employees was 4.9.
Women-owned businesses still remain significantly underrepresented in the proportion of workers employed by all firms, however, the report said.
The majority of businesses surveyed for the report were founded in the current decade, and the largest proportion of women have owned their business for only five years or less. Data collected by the survey is based on information self-reported by survey respondents.
By far the number one reason (80 percent) women said they went into business for themselves was to “be their own boss.”
In responding to the survey, 7 out of 10 said Sonoma was a good place for women to start a business, and the greater Santa Rosa-Sonoma County metropolitan region was classified as the fifth-best metropolitan area for a woman to start a business by NerdWallet.
Scoring lower, 5 out of 10, said more needs to be done for women regarding policies to help women entrepreneurs, or more awareness of such policies.
“The most common challenge is balancing family and business, followed by access to finance and a lack of confidence and fear of failure,” the report said. “Improved and increased networking opportunities was singled out by the majority of survey respondents, 54 percent, as their greatest recommendation to further support and encourage female entrepreneurs.”