By Brice Wallace

Utah continues to improve its rankings for women entrepreneurship, despite growth figures the past few years falling short of national rates in several categories.

A research and policy brief produced by the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University, an update of a 2016 study, indicates that Utah last year was the home to 89,092 women-owned businesses, up 14.5 percent from 77,800 in 2015. For comparison, the nation growth rate during that time was 37 percent, to nearly 13 million.

Other statistics compiled by American Express about women-owned businesses indicate that such Utah companies had 78,199 employees last year, up 33 percent from 58,900 in 2015, ahead of the national pace of 19 percent growth. Revenues generated grew 9 percent in Utah, to $15.7 million, while nationally the growth was 27 percent, to $1.9 trillion. The number of new women-owned businesses established daily grew nationally from 887 to 1,817, while in Utah it slipped from six to five.

In 2016, Utah was eighth-ranked among states for the economic clout of women-owned businesses, but last year had moved up to sixth. It was fifth-ranked for revenue growth, 10th in employment growth and 12th in growth by number of firms.

“Utah continues to rank well when it comes to women’s entrepreneurship, despite the barriers that exist nationally as well as those that are unique to Utah women in general,” the report states. “Even in the face of multiple hurdles, women are establishing businesses that not only generate revenue and employ other Utahns, but also contribute to their quality of life and the prosperity of local and statewide economies.”

Utah women face several barriers to entrepreneurship, according to the study. They include a lack of fair access to capital — in 2017, only two of 110 venture capital deals involved women-owned firms and they received less than 2 percent of the $1.1 billion invested by venture capital firms in Utah. Other barriers are a lack of access to mentors, a lack of access to affordable child care, and a lack of awareness of business training and resources.

“While women entrepreneurs in Utah benefit from its economic strength, there is a stark disparity between male and female entrepreneurs,” according to the report. Women are seldom the primary operator in spouse-owned enterprises and women-owned businesses are underrepresented in the most-lucrative fields.

The report recommends creating connections between women-owned businesses and resources available to them; adopting a “bigger is better” attitude by encouraging women to expand their business profiles, to think bigger, pursue out-of-the-box ideas, and consider nontraditional business opportunities such as international exporting or government contracting; committing to diversify supply chains; changing the perception that entrepreneurship is a masculine activity, a perception it said is deeply rooted in the media; and collecting and using data to get a clearer snapshot of the entire ecosystem in which women-owned businesses operate.

“Currently, no consistent, statewide data are tracked by the state of Utah on women business ownership,” it says.

“As an important segment of productive business owners,” the report says, “women certainly are getting things done and, by so doing, are impacting others and blazing a trail to an improved future for Utah.”

The report is available at https://www.uvu.edu/uwlp/docs/uwlp_brief2020.no.22.pdf.

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