The number of women-owned businesses in Washington isn’t increasing as fast as the national average, according to the fifth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. Nationally the number of women-owned firms has increased by 74 percent in the last 18 years. Washington ranked 31st among states with an increase of 51 percent.
We know what you’re thinking. How can such a progressive state be lagging so far behind? We dug a little deeper to see if Washington was actually ahead of the game 18 years ago in terms of the number of female entrepreneurs. If the Washington had a high number of women-owned business back in 1997 that would cause the increase average to fall behind states that have only recently seen significant women-owned business growth. But sorry, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Georgia had the highest increase rate with a whopping 132 percent. And in 1997, it had about 22,500 more women-owned businesses than Washington. Even today the Peach State has nearly twice as many women-owned businesses. For the record, Georgia does have approximately 3 million more residents than Washington.
The gender pay gap in Washington isn’t great either. According to 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, women earn 80 percent of men’s median earnings. The national average is 78 percent and Washington ranked 21st in the country for pay equality. According to the American Association of University Women, the Eastside includes congressional districts that make up the smallest and largest pay-gap ratios. Washington’s 9th congressional district, which includes Renton, Newcastle, Mercer Island, and Bellevue, has the highest earnings ratio with 87 percent. Washington’s 1st congressional district, which includes Whatcom, Skagit, and Snohomish counties and Eastside cities Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodinville, has the worst earnings ratio with women earning 70 percent of men’s earnings.
In 2013, Seattle had the largest pay gap of the top metropolitan areas in the country, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Women were earning 73 cents on the men’s dollar. In 2015, that number improved to 79 cents.
There’s plenty of evidence that proves Washington is a progressive state. Washington has an Equal Pay Act that prohibits “paying female employees a lower wage than it pays to similarly employed males,” and individual business leaders are showing support for women entrepreneurs. Just last week, Seattle’s Jonathan Sposato announced he will only be investing in startups that have at least one woman on the team. And yet, the numbers don’t lie. Washington has room to improve its support of women in business.