Women own just 17% of Delaware Valley businesses

Despite the efforts of activists to get people more involved in the Democratic Party, an anticipated surge of candidates didn't materialize to run for party committee posts in Philadelphia. (WHYY file photo)

Despite the efforts of activists to get people more involved in the Democratic Party, an anticipated surge of candidates didn't materialize to run for party committee posts in Philadelphia. (WHYY file photo)

In Philadelphia, and across the nation, owning a business remains something of a boys club.

A first-of-its-kind survey from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday finds that just 17 percent of the businesses in the Delaware Valley are owned by women. The top metropolitan area, Denver, does slightly better at 23 percent.

The survey data also looked into minority-owned firms. Of the more than 109,000 businesses in the region, fewer than 16,000, or 14.5 percent, are owned by minorities.

“It is obvious to see the changes that are occurring in Philadelphia, just walking outside the door, and we want to make sure that that vibrancy and that innovation is reaching every single neighborhood, and every single corner of the city,” said Archna Sahay, the city’s director of entrepreneurial investment.

She pointed to a range of programs aimed at fixing the ownership imbalance, including Startup PHL, the Philadelphia Capital Consortium, and peer-to-peer lending service Kiva.

“If you have the aptitude, and you have the ability, and you have the desire, we have the resources,” Sahay said.

Accessing capital remains one of the biggest challenges for women and minority entrepreneurs, and it’s not a problem easily solved.

“In 2016, there is still unconscious bias and discrimination,” said Geri Swift, president of the Women’s Business Development Center. “People need to understand that and understand what you need to do to try to remedy that.”

Women- and minority-owned businesses are “linchpins” in their neighborhoods, creating employment opportunities for disadvantaged workers, she said.

“It is really important, no matter who I am, no matter what my race, color, religion, or sex, that I have an opportunity to do what I need to do, and what I want to do, and what I have the capacity to do,” Swift said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.