Growth of women-owned businesses lags

The growth of businesses owned by women has dwindled dramatically in South Florida since the recession, falling far behind the national pace, a new report concludes.

The number of new businesses, revenue and number of employees all have lagged, according to a report this week by American Express Open.

From 2002 to 2007, the report says, women-owned businesses grew by 29 percent in South Florida and 33 percent in Florida, topping the national rate of 20 percent growth. But since then, women-owned businesses have grown only 5 percent in South Florida and 6 percent statewide — while national growth has held at 21 percent, the report says.

The report illustrates that the recession, which stretched from 2007 to 2009, continues to affect the state, said Julie Weeks, the independent research adviser who did the analysis for American Express Open

“Florida has not really recovered from the recession, at least in terms of women-owned firms,” Weeks said.

According to the report, called The State of Women-Owned Businesses:

  • Revenue at women-owned businesses grew 28.5 percent in South Florida and 67.8 percent statewide from 2002 to 2015, compared with 78.7 percent nationwide.
  • Meanwhile, employment actually declined by 10.3 percent at women-owned business in South Florida — compared with 12 percent growth statewide and 11 percent nationally. Weeks attributes the decline to more women opening solo businesses or practices in South Florida.

Some local business leaders took issue with the report.

Nancy Allen, president of Women’s Business Development Council of Florida, said she hasn’t seen slower growth in Florida. The Council certifies businesses as woman-owned to bid for corporate and government contracts

“We haven’t seen a decline in our numbers. They’ve held steady,” Allen said.

Of 525 certified women-owned businesses, 38 percent have been in business for at least 15 years, she said. The companies generate $4.8 billion in revenues and employ close to 15,000 workers.

Chris McCarty, director of the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said the recession took a disportionate toll on Florida. Women-owned businesss related to housing and hospitality were especially hurt.

But McCarty questions the report’s analysis, which updates published data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 1997, 2002 and 2007, calculating 2015 estimates by factoring in actual changes in Gross Domestic Product, or industry output, which are available annually.

That method assumes that “whatever track we were on would have effectively continued,” McCarty said.

“I don’t know if that’s a reasonable assumption,” McCarty said, pointing to Florida’s employment report as an example of the rapid changes in the state since the economic recovery.

Weeks said the data is as “accurate as possible,” given the current availability of data. Small-business growth data from the 2012 Census is expected to be released soon, she said.

Compared with other states, Florida ranks 12th in the growth of women-owned businesses, according to the American Express Open report. The state fell in the rankings from last year, when it ranked seventh.

The states seeing the fastest growth in female entrepreneurship are Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota and New York, according to the report.

A separate survey of women-led businesses in Florida, released earlier this year by The Commonwealth Institute of South Florida, shows that 55 percent of companies owned or led by women grew in the past year. That survey doesn’t track the number of women-owned firms.

Janet Kyle Altman, marketing principal for Kaufman Rossin in Miami, who complied a report of Florida’s Top Women-Led Businesses earlier this year, said women are opening their own businesses because they “aren’t getting what they need in leadership opportunities or the benefit they need working for corporation.”

Altman said women continue to make less money than men in similar roles and work-life balance is still lacking in corporations.

While the slower growth may indicate that women have more opportunities in the corporate world, Altman said she thinks that’s probably optimistic. Slower growth in women-owned businesses may be a result of the recent boom in construction and related industries, which tend to be dominated by men. Also, she said the younger generation is more risk-averse, according to a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation study, which would make them less likely to start a business.

At least two South Florida women business owners say they saw the region and state as a great place for their businesses.

Business owner Angela Civitella recently moved her executive coaching firm, Intinde, to Fort Lauderdale from Quebec, Canada. Civitella said she already had clients in South Florida and likes the region’s global culture.

“For somebody else, it could be a little daunting,” she said. But Civitella, who has 10 employees, said she has worked all over the world, so “I’m not phased by it. I’m used to dealing with all different cultures.”

She said people do business with those they like and trust. “That takes time. There’s no way to hurry that,” Civitella said.

Randi Salko, a former Citigroup executive in Fort Lauderdale who started her own business in February, said she has found South Florida “a collaborative environment.”

“Everybody wants to help. It’s a strong community of professional women,” said Salko, whose company, She’s Fit to Lead, works with women looking to build their confidence and climb the corporate ladder. She operates out of Carr Workplaces, an office space for start-ups in downtown Fort Lauderdale, working remotely with New York business partner Lisa Taubes.

Salko, who moved three years ago from Westchester County, N.Y., to Boca Raton, thinks Florida is attractive to women and their families who want to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“Florida really changed all of our lives,” she said. “My husband is in the best shape of his life. My physical and personal transformation took place here. There’s something about the lifestyle and the culture and the approach to life.”

Her decision to start a business was a long-held plan.

“My daughter is 18 years old and graduates on Friday. I want the world to be a different place for her. I want there be an abundance of opportunity,” she said.


Janet Kyle Altman leads the marketing team at Kaufman Rossin, one of the top accounting firms in the
country. She also is vice chair of The Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade and former chair of Friends of WLRN. A frequent writer and lecturer, Janet’s daily practice of leadership is focused on the vision that women and girls should have equal rights, access and opportunity.

Janet Altman is a Management Chief Marketing Officer at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.