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The top 20 cities in America for businesswomen

More and more women are taking the lead in business ownership across the country, with over nine-million women-owned businesses nationwide and the number of women executives on the rise.

We work with business owners every day to help them securely sync and share files from anywhere; however, the physical location chosen for a business can be just as important. So, we created the Businesswomen Power City Index by evaluating the 50 largest cities in the U.S. to determine where the best locations are for women to achieve business success.

The index ranks cities based on the percentage of women-owned businesses, executive jobs held by women, women vs. men wage gaps and the buying power of women, which is based on the cost of living and the average wages earned by women.

Based on our index, these are the top 20 cities for businesswomen in America:

If you’re a businesswoman who’s looking to pursue a successful career, then Baltimore, MD, is the place to be. The combination of a high percentage of women-owned businesses (23%), women business executives (31%), and high buying power for women (ranked #1) secured the Maryland city in first place. Baltimore was closely followed by Tampa, FL in second and Washington, D.C. in third.

See how all the of the top 20 stacked up below:

Wondering what women think about how it is to work in their cities? We contacted successful business owners and professionals in each of the top 10 cities and asked them why they thought their city was a leading location for women in business.

1. Baltimore, Maryland

% of women-owned businesses: 23.3% (10th)
% of women business executives: 31.3% (10th)
Wage gap between women and men: 18.2% (26th)
Women’s buying power: 123.4 (1st)

Heather Garner, owner of Garnering Change Psychotherapy, says, “Baltimore is a great city to work in because, although it is a smaller ‘big city,’ it is centrally located to other larger metropolitan areas. In two hours on the train, you can be in New York City, 45 minutes and you can be in Washington D.C., and in an hour, you can be in Philadelphia. With a smaller population than cities close by, and so many unique communities and groups here in Baltimore, networking is super easy, and word-of-mouth referrals are often the bread and butter of small businesses.

“We don’t call it ‘Smalltimore’ for nothing! The business communities here in Baltimore are very active and are often willing to help out newcomers. Also, because the people in this area are used to commuting, they are willing to travel for a great product or service.”

2. Tampa, Florida

% of women-owned businesses: 22.6% (14th)
% of women business executives: 31.1% (4th)
Wage gap between women and men: 13.1% (9th)
Women’s buying power: 96.7 (24th)

Janel Laravie, founder and CEO of Chacka Marketing, says, “Tampa is the best city for business for so many reasons! We have amazing universities that incubate the best and brightest talent. The business community throughout Westshore and downtown Tampa encompasses unique and professional networking and meeting environments, like the Oxford Exchange and Centre Club.

“Some good advice for starting up a business in Tampa would be to network with local business owners. The entrepreneurs in this community have been, and continue to be, selfless in sharing their experiences. Every entrepreneur I’ve met here is dedicated to building up others and ultimately contributing to the growth of the city.”

3. Washington, D.C.

% of women-owned businesses: 24.5% (5th)
% of women business executives: 32% (5th)
Wage gap between women and men: 15.1% (15th)
Women’s buying power: 85.5 (35th)

Roshni Agarwal, co-founder of The Vacation Hunt, says, “D.C. is really welcoming to startups in general; it was recently voted one of the best places to start a tech business. There have also been more and more females in higher positions of power in the area, which helps set the tone.

“What advice would I give to women looking to start a business in D.C.? Just start it! You never know until you try and you’d be surprised how supportive other women are here.”

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

% of women-owned businesses: 22.5% (15th)
% of women business executives: 31.8% (7th)
Wage gap between women and men: 12.3% (5th)
Women’s buying power: 83.9 (36th)

Joey Montano, senior strategist at RevUnit, says, “Las Vegas is an awesome place for businesses because the cost of operating is lower in comparison to other bigger cities. For me, the tax benefits are amazing (no state tax is a big bonus). I think most people don’t expect Las Vegas to be as big as it is, but in finding locations to set up shop, there are a lot of affordable options out there as well (co-working spaces pop up quite frequently).

“I think the Vegas startup community is on the cusp of a boom. It might not be as big as it was several years ago. But in the world of startups, pushing for diversity tends to be a huge agenda in the community in general. Vegas is all about ‘put up or shut up,’ so the market doesn’t care who you are or what your background is. That itself lowers a lot of barriers for most people.”

5. Orlando, Florida

% of women-owned businesses: 23.1% (12th)
% of women business executives: 29.8% (20th)
Wage gap between women and men: 12.2% (4th)
Women’s buying power: 90.9 (33rd)

Lisa Jennings, chief experience officer at Wildly Different, says, “Orlando is the ideal location for a business such as ours, as it’s one of the most popular convention cities in the U.S. It’s also a growing, vibrant place with a great reputation and lots of opportunities. A vast number of people in the hospitality industry, of which we are a part, are women, so it doesn’t feel as if you’re coming up against any glass ceiling.

“It also has a number of organizations you can join to meet like-minded business people. In addition to the obvious choices like the Chambers of Commerce, Visit Orlando and Downtown Orlando Partnership, etc., there are many meetup groups that offer support to those who are self-employed. Get out there, get known and tell people what it is you’re trying to achieve—you’ll be amazed at how helpful people can be!”

6. Sacramento, California

% of women-owned businesses: 20.1% (32nd)
% of women business executives: 32.5% (3rd)
Wage gap between women and men: 12% (2nd)
Women’s buying power: 88.6 (34th)

Dr. Oksana Boyechko, of Shingle Springs Dental, says, “Sacramento is a large city made up of many intimate, friendly communities. So wherever your business is located, the people who live and work around your neighborhood become your friends and best customers. I’ve owned dental offices in large cities in Oregon, Florida, and most recently in L.A., but the community here is so supportive and loving that they really make you feel at home in no time.

“In Sacramento, in particular, I have found there are so many people who want to help you launch your business. I recommend meeting and speaking with a few businesswomen first—even if it’s a cold call or email where you introduce yourself and learn more about doing business in the area.”

7. (tie) Minneapolis, Minnesota

% of women-owned businesses: 21.1% (24th)
% of women business executives: 30.8% (14th)
Wage gap between women and men: 15.6% (17th)
Women’s buying power: 103.9 (17th)

April Davis, owner and founder of LUMA – Luxury Matchmakers, says, “First of all, the people in Minneapolis are amazing—there are so many intelligent, educated, and genuine people in one place. In the world of high-end matchmaking, this is very attractive, because they’re easy people to work with.

“There are a ton of women’s networking groups and events—take advantage of them. Women love helping each other and there is usually a great speaker there too that you can learn from. Additionally, I am a huge fan of the Score office. I meet regularly with my mentors and use them sort of like they’re my bosses who hold me accountable and give me ideas to issues we’re facing. The best part is they’re free to use and very experienced, successful former business owners themselves!”

7. (tie) Hartford, Connecticut

% of women-owned businesses: 19% (42nd)
% of women business executives: 31.9% (6th)
Wage gap between women and men: 17.9% (22nd)
Women’s buying power: 120.8 (2nd)

Hartford is home to the Women’s Business Center, located at the University of Hartford, which supports female entrepreneurs across the city and the state. The Entrepreneurial Center serves more than 1,000 individuals and more than 500 businesses every year, with 70% being women or women-owned businesses.

9. Miami, Florida

% of women-owned businesses: 24.4% (6th)
% of women business executives: 29.5% (23rd)
Wage gap between women and men: 12.1% (3rd)
Women’s buying power: 65.8 (42nd)

Esti Chazanow, co-founder of LIV Watches, says, “Miami is a very international city. Small and friendly enough to meet people from a range of places and cultures but big enough to give a global perspective (this is important because at least 50% of our sales are international). Miami is really small-business friendly, which allows me to focus on getting things done.

“The city also has a real boutique designer vibe; recently developed neighborhoods like the Miami Design District and Wynwood are booming. There’s also some great infrastructure to support the development of designers and brands. For example, specialists such as photographers, video editors and marketers with experience in micro-branding are readily available. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the sun never stops shining!”

10. Providence, RI

% of women-owned businesses: 19.8% (35th)
% of women business executives: 31.7% (9th)
Wage gap between women and men: 13.2% (10th)
Women’s buying power: 99.6 (22nd)

Rounding out the top 10 with the 10th smallest wage gap between women and men and the 9th highest percent of women business executives, Providence, Rhode Island is another promising city for businesswomen.  Providence is also home to a robust chapter of the Center for Women & Enterprise, New England’s leading organization for women entrepreneurs.

Dr. Katharine Burton, owner of Burton Family Dental, advises of Providence, RI: “It’s a hidden gem. People don’t realize that with all of the Universities, major companies like Hasbro, Lifespan and more, you have a huge market to pull from for basically any business. People underestimate the value to be had by owning a business here. I don’t think I would have had as much opportunity in Boston or even suburban Massachusetts.”

 

Methodology:

We created The Businesswomen Power City Index with data from four main sources, including the U.S. Census 2014 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, Sperling’s Best Places, Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and the 2017 Kauffman index. Using those sources, we then created four ranking factors across business opportunities, equal pay opportunities, career advancement and locations where women were likely to find their salary was least impacted by the cost of living locally.

The four rankings factors chosen included the percentage of women-owned businesses, executive jobs held by women, the wage gap between women and men and buying power of women. The buying power was determined by deducting the normalized cost of living from normalized earnings by women and then adding a score of 100 based on the national average score of 100.

Each ranking factor was weighted equally in the data, and each city was given a position for each factor ranging from 1–50 (or equal places where two or more cities were joined). A mean average was taken of all four factors to determine each city’s overall average position. The city with the highest overall average position is placed first, while the city with the lowest average is placed last.

See more details on each of the factors in the Businesswomen Power City Index by clicking on the charts below, including national averages and the top 20 cities by factor.