Happy women’s history month! Although women now make up a majority of those enrolled in college, women are still underrepresented in some fields, including business and entrepreneurship. Many successful businesswomen shared their thoughts in our recent compilation of tips from small businesswomen, and they cited a lack of female mentorship and networking opportunities for women as barriers. Although female entrepreneurs are less common than male entrepreneurs, there are plenty of innovative, inspiring women in the business industry.
NerdWallet examined which cities are the best for women entrepreneurs based on the following questions:
- Is the city an entrepreneurial one? We assessed the cities’ entrepreneurial climates by the number of businesses in the city per 100 residents.
- Are there female entrepreneurs (for networking or mentorship)? We analyzed the percentage of businesses in the city that are women-owned to gauge the level of support women would be able to find as well as how friendly the city is to entrepreneurial women.
- Does the city have a thriving economy? We examined the median income and unemployment rate to determine which cities have an economy that is conducive to new businesses and which have strong economic fundamentals. Cities that ranked higher have a high median income and low unemployment rate.
- Is it a highly educated city? Education levels correlate with entrepreneurship, and a study found that 92% of tech founders hold a Bachelor’s degree. We assessed the presence of educated workers in the city by the percentage of residents over 25 years old with a Bachelor’s degree.
For more information on how cities vary, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tool.
NerdWallet's Top Ten Cities for Women Entrepreneurs:
1. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is well-known for its entrepreneurial climate, particularly in the technology industry. With nearby Silicon Valley and a whopping 13.7 businesses per 100 residents, the city has plenty of fellow entrepreneurs for networking and collaboration opportunities. The Bay Area is also home to three of the nation’s most famous businesswomen, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo) and Meg Whitman (CEO of Hewlett-Packard).
2. Seattle, WA
Seattle is one of the most highly educated cities and has a correspondingly high median income and low unemployment rate. With 12.5 businesses per 100 residents, the city is highly entrepreneurial, and women own around 4 of those businesses.
Organizations like CHEW organize events and panels to encourage female entrepreneurs to open their businesses in Seattle. Seattle is also home to one of the world’s most famous and civic-minded businesswomen, Melinda Gates, as well as rising chef and restaurant entrepreneur Renee Erickson.
3. Washington, DC
Over one-third of businesses in DC are owned by women, meaning that women in this city can find plenty of female coworkers and mentors. The city provides plenty of resources to women as well, such as the Washington, DC Women’s Business Center. The organization, partially funded by the SBA, offers trainings, classes and one-on-one consultations.
4. Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis has the dual benefits of having a very low unemployment rate and an educated workforce. Additionally, women own almost a third of businesses in Minneapolis. Minnesotan businesswomen can meet each other and network at quarterly events at Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota. The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) of Minnesota is very active, providing networking and other events, and nearby twin-city Saint Paul-based WomenVentureoffers loans and transitional career services.
5. Portland, OR
This laid-back West Coast city has it all: plenty of businesses, a good share of which are owned by women, an educated general populace and a low unemployment rate. Additionally, organizations like Women Entrepreneurs of Oregon hold plenty of events for women. Intel is Oregon’s largest employer, and the company has six Oregon campuses as well as a female Executive Vice President,Renee James.
6. Atlanta, GA
Atlanta has plenty of businesses, a third of which are run by women, and an educated population, making it a great city for female entrepreneurs. Plus, businesswomen can meet at the various networking events and educational programs run by the NAWBO in Atlanta. The Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection assists women in finding mentors, and the state provides plenty of trainings and networking assistance for women business owners.
7. Austin, TX
Austin is known for its startups—there are almost 11 businesses for every 100 Austin residents. Austin has a very low unemployment rate of only 6.2%, which is one reason we rated it as the number one city for job seekers. With organizations like Austin Women in Technology, businesswomen in Austin will have little trouble finding a supportive and knowledgeable community.
8. Raleigh, NC
Raleigh’s low unemployment rate and high number of businesses per person make it a great city for female entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs can check out organizations like Raleigh Business and Professional Women for resources. In addition, the City of Raleigh has adopted a Small Disadvantaged Minority and Women Owned Business Program, promising to award 15% of the city’s contracts to minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
9. Denver, CO
Denver is a highly educated city with plenty of businesses, 30% of which are owned by women. The Mile High City also has resources for businesswomen through The Entrepreneur Center at the University of Denver, which provides mentorship and networking opportunities. The city even hostsDenver Startup Week, a week of trainings, office hours, parties, mentorship and networking events. The week was so successful in 2012 that the city has announced a second year of the program.
10. San Diego, CA
With an educated population, moderately high median income and entrepreneurial atmosphere, San Diego is a great city for women in business. San Diego female entrepreneurs can access mentors, workshops, networking events and various small business tools through SCORE and the NAWBO. There are also several startup incubators in the city that help foster entrepreneurs and their ideas, including EvoNexus and the newly launched cybersecurity incubator CyberHive.
The overall score for female entrepreneurs was calculated from the following measures:
- Number of businesses per 100 residents from the U.S. Census
- Percent of businesses that are women-owned from the U.S. Census
- Per capita median income from the U.S. Census (half-weighted)
- Unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (half-weighted)
- Percent of residents 25+ who have a Bachelor’s degree
50 of the most populous U.S. cities were included in this analysis.
NerdWallet is a consumer-friendly financial literacy website. We have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Reuters; our products have been recommended by consumer advocates Liz Weston, Clark Howard and Consumer Action.