Best American Cities for Women in Business: 2018

Posted on Categories Business

Twelve months ago, we released a Businesswomen Power City Index. Evaluating the 50 biggest cities in the US, the index ranked each city based a number of factors relating to women in business.

Working with businesses of many sizes every day who are using our platform for secure file sharing for contracts, we know that there are many factors that contribute to growth of a company. That’s why the index analyses four key critical factors to female business success: percentage of women-owned businesses, executive jobs held by women, women vs. men wage gaps, and the buying power of women.

Baltimore, Maryland claimed top spot, but has the landscape changed over the last year? Here’s how the top 20 cities stack up in 2018:

Baltimore takes top spot once again, owing to its outstanding female buying power (ranked #1) and top 10 positioning for executive positions held by females (31.2%). Tampa, Florida also held onto second place, thanks to its first-place position on the gender wage gap and high level of executive positions held by females (32%).

Aside from the top two, no other city in the top 20 has remained in the same position, with several new cities making their way into the very best cities for women in business, including our very own Raleigh which we’re proud to fly the flag for. We spoke to female business-owners across the top 10 to find out why their city has proven so successful at empowering women in business.

1.  Baltimore, Maryland

% of women-owned businesses: 24.9% (4th)

% of women business executives: 31.2% (10th)

Wage gap between women and men: 19.1% (21st)

Women’s buying power: 123.6 (1st)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 1st    

Baltimore can point to services like the Mayor’s Office of Minority & Women-Women Business Development for justification of their retention of the top spot. Offering support and laying on a number of annual networking events for small local businesses, the state-funded office offers a helping hand to female-led business.

Danielle Berman of Tackle What’s Next Consulting spoke of Baltimore’s excellent support network when we asked for her advice to new business owners:

Take advantage of those groups and networking opportunities available to you. The Baltimore Business Journal is a great resource. There are many different groups and networking opportunities depending on what industry you are looking to get involved in, so make sure you join those.

Also, there are great classes to teach you how to start your business if you need that extra guidance.

2. Tampa, Florida

% of women-owned businesses: 22% (19th)

% of women business executives: 32% (4th)

Wage gap between women and men: 10% (1st)

Women’s buying power: 97.2 (23rd)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 2nd  

Tampa can also point to some handy initiatives that contribute to their success at elevating women in business. The Tampa Bay Wave is an entrepreneurial hub specializing in tech. Offering business success programs and mentorship, the Tampa Bay Wave has an “Accelerator” arm which focuses on minority and women-owned businesses.

Tampa-based businesswoman Marley Nonami leaned on the city’s business community when looking to grow her home-based business:

I moved to Tampa from Atlanta and I love running my business in Tampa. The people in Tampa are working hard to create an amazing ecosystem to foster growth for start-ups, biotech, fintech, and much more. In addition, the Tampa community is trying to attract talent from oversaturated places like Silicon Valley and large metropolitan cities.

Earlier this year, I was able to find a group called Key People of Influence (KPI) which has been instrumental in helping my business get clear on the strategy and laser focus my attention. It’s also helped by connecting me with the perfect people to not only help me grow but create partnership so we can have a much greater impact on our customers and our community.

3. Hartford, Connecticut

% of women-owned businesses: 20.4% (31st)

% of women business executives: 31.9% (6th)

Wage gap between women and men: 18.1% (16th)

Women’s buying power: 119 (3rd)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 7th

Hartford has jumped four places from 2017, as a result of a higher percentage of women-owned businesses (up 1.4%). They have a successful Women’s Business Center at the University of Hartford, offering advice, training, and events for women looking to expand their business.

Dixie Lee, a real estate investor for We Buy Houses In Connecticut, suggested the people of Hartford are key to success in their business.

Hartford is the capital of Connecticut, containing a central hub brimming with a diverse population of just over a million. The cultural diversity of the city attracts people from all walks of life, fueling business for the city.

4. Washington, D.C.

% of women-owned businesses: 24.1% (7th)

% of women business executives: 31.9% (5th)

Wage gap between women and men: 15.5% (11th)

Women’s buying power: 83.3 (38th)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 3rd

Washington, D.C. has received praise in the past for the elevation it gives to women in business. Well placed at fourth in this year’s index, they also make up 23% of all the women-led companies in the Inc. 5000.

Corinne Zmoos from Rover outlined a major challenge for any women setting up their own business in Washington D.C.:

A challenge of the D.C. market is the fact that this city is so transient. Clients who have been incredible are all too often offered jobs in new cities or finishing their fellowships, schooling, or contracts.

This means that creating a networking means constantly regenerating and repositioning the network – it has to be a living thing.

5. Jacksonville, Florida

% of women-owned businesses: 23.6% (7th)

% of women business executives: 29.4% (24th)

Wage gap between women and men:  15.4% (9th)

Women’s buying power: 99.2 (21st)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: Joint 19th

Mary Daniel, the owner of ClaimMedic, points to a genuine sense of community when discussing the benefits of business ownership in Jacksonville:

One of the things I love about Jacksonville is the small-town feel. The supportive community of organizations and other business owners truly collaborate to help each other. I have never felt in competition with any other company because we work together to support each other.

As a growing city, we get a lot of new start-ups that get the support of more experienced business owners, encouraging each other to succeed.

6. Raleigh, North Carolina

% of women-owned businesses: 21.4% (24th)

% of women business executives: 31% (12th)

Wage gap between women and men: 18.1% (16th)

Women’s buying power: 105.1 (15th)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: Joint 19th

Crowdfunding has been embraced by the city of Raleigh as a means to green-light new business ventures. iFundWomen operates over eight major US cities, empowering women to start and grow business – one of which is Raleigh.

As a company based in the city of Raleigh, Citrix’s Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition, Annette Kranepool, gave us her thoughts on Raleigh’s suitability to women in business:

There is so much opportunity in Raleigh to build your vision. I keep coming back to the people. We have a wonderful workforce in Raleigh and benefit from the growing talent stemming from our neighboring universities. We’re also business friendly and you’ll find that the community is very supportive of each other.

My advice would be to network! Join groups like NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners-Great Raleigh Chapter) where you can not only network but learn best practices from other women business owners in Raleigh. You’ll find it’s a really friendly and inclusive environment.

7. Denver, Colorado

% of women-owned businesses: 25.5% (2nd)  

% of women business executives: 27.9% (32nd)

Wage gap between women and men: 13.4% (4th)

Women’s buying power: 84 (37th)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 16th

Denver is another city that benefits from government-run initiatives, this time from state level. The Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade contains a minority business program, helping small, minority and women-owned businesses gain certification for government contracts.

Elizabeth Neufeld from Strat Labs points to Denver’s collaborative spirit to explain the success women are having in the area:

There doesn’t seem to be the formal hierarchy that exists in other cities where industries are siloed: financial services, technology, medical. Denver seems to have cracked that open and there is a lot of cross-sector collaboration.

There is this incredible woman-owned and woman-supported network that spans industries including retail, healthcare, tech, nonprofit and others. It is proof that you can do things differently.

8. (Tie) Orlando, Florida

% of women-owned businesses: 23.1% (13th)

% of women business executives: 29.7% (20th)

Wage gap between women and men: 15.1% (8th)

Women’s buying power: 87.8 (35th)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 5th

Tina Willis from Tina Willis Law thinks Orlando has just the right balance for local businesses to thrive:

I’d say that Orlando is just right, in terms of being big enough to generate plenty of business, but small enough to still get to know other lawyers, judges, and clients, and small enough to navigate without driving consuming too much of my daily life. That’s a winning combination.

On a personal note, I also love that Orlando is just about an hour from nearby beaches and has many running trails and other outdoor recreational activities. I can always wind down from a stressful day of working as a lawyer by enjoying lots of fun outside.

8. (Tie) Miami, Florida

% of women-owned businesses: 23.8% (8th)

% of women business executives: 29.5% (23rd)

Wage gap between women and men: 12.6% (3rd)

Women’s buying power: 64.5 (42nd)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 8th

Women looking for business advice in Miami can look to Miami-Dade – a network of over 100 business professionals offering mentoring and skills workshops for people in the Miami area.

Business coach and author Amanda Abella, has seen firsthand the growth the city has enjoyed over the last few years:

There is a ton of growth opportunity and money flowing around (all you have to do is look outside the window and downtown and you’ll see how everything is booming).

You also have access to an international clientele and tons of free events to go network at. It’s also still relatively untapped so it’s not saturated like some other cities.

9. Austin, Texas

% of women-owned businesses: 24.9% (3rd)  

% of women business executives: 27.6% (35th)

Wage gap between women and men: 14% (5th)

Women’s buying power: 88.2 (34th)

Position in Businesswomen Power City Index 2017: 30th

Austin also has a women in business initiative – Women@Austin. The initiative works to run regular forums and roundtables, offering Austin-based businesses the opportunity to pick up helpful tips and network with other local enterprises and entrepreneurs.

Andrea Sanchez from HEYL Real Estate, says Austin’s diversity of industries is one of its major business strengths.

Austin has the entrepreneur mindset like I have not seen in any other city. While Silicon Valley is known for tech, New York City is known for finance. In Austin, we have entrepreneurs dipping into every area imaginable – from great food to yoga, to local businesses.

There’s a reason why we say Keep Austin Weird, and it’s not just the Birkenstocks and tie-dye, it’s because people here believe in shopping and supporting local businesses.

Austin has an amazing community of strong business women, and they are here to help. A would-be entrepreneurial woman can take her pick of local groups that are here for the sole purpose of building them up. Some examples include Changemaker Chats, Ladies Get Paid, Boss Babes, and Austin Women in Business – just to name a few.


We created The Businesswomen Power City Index with data from four main sources, including the U.S. Census 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, U.S Census Bureau 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Sperling’s Best Places and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. 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.



About the Author

Stephanie Styers has been managing paid search marketing at Citrix in Raleigh since 2015. She loves play listing for any and every occasion, testing her survival skills outdoors, and being a co-ringmaster for a dog and cat circus at home.

Tagged under: