South Florida's service sector catapults women-owned firms
By Frank Norton
Miami-Dade County's service-based economy may be fostering above-average growth in women-owned business, according to a new study by the Washington-based Center for Women's Business Research.
Between 1997 and 2002, combined sales by local women-owned businesses in the county grew 55% while the number of women-owned firms increased 23%. That beats the national average for both categories, which saw increases of 30% and 14% respectively, the study shows.
"Miami has a favorable service-based economy and women primarily own service-based companies," said Sandra Hernandez Adams, who owns software consultancy Strategic Micro Partners in Miami.
Immediate past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Ms. Adams said successful business climates for women have generally grown around metropolitan areas with diverse service economies, such as Miami, rather than heavy manufacturing metro regions.
She also said women are traditionally better trained for service-type needs, regardless of professional level.
"We have fewer women engineers than we do women accountants," she said.
Another factor that has spurred growth in women-owned service companies is the comparatively low capital requirement.
"Manufacturing is much more capital intensive and that raises the whole access to money issue," Ms. Adams said.
The center's research shows that while women business owners borrow their proportional share of money to expand operations, they score far below men in accessing venture capital. The center estimates that less than 3% of venture capital dollars go to women.
Although the fastest growing market segments for women-owned businesses are in so-called non-traditional sectors like construction and manufacturing, the biggest growing sectors are still service areas like health care, accounting and communications, according to the center.
"Women are still more likely than men to work in hospitality services or retail trade because of historical work experience and educational background," said Julie Weeks, who heads the research group. But she added that women are increasingly penetrating highly skilled service areas such as consulting, accounting and law.
"So it's not just retail or the local beauty parlor anymore."
The largest growth in the number of women-owned firms from 1997 to 2002 came in the services industry followed by transportation, communications, public utilities and agriculture. In terms of sales, the women's service sector is seen generating more revenue in 2002 than manufacturing, construction, mining and agriculture combined.