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Report: It's Good to Be a Woman Business Owner in Tennessee

Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville speaks at a recent luncheon of Nashville Cable, a networking group for women. (Nashville Cable)
Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville speaks at a recent luncheon of Nashville Cable, a networking group for women. (Nashville Cable)
February 29, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Three Tennessee cities top the list when it comes to their support of women-owned businesses.

The findings from a WalletHub study commissioned by American Express OPEN recognized Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis in the top five out of 100 cities and Knoxville at 15th for their overall "new business friendliness" and female entrepreneurship.

Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, executive director of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, says the recognition in the report represents a validation of efforts in recent years.

"It shows that as the economic council and other advocates work to empower Tennessee's women each day, we are also creating a more attractive community throughout the state and a more dynamic business environment," says Qualls-Brooks.

According to the Small Business Administration's data from 2014, there are 141,000 women-owned businesses in Tennessee.

Qualls-Brooks says programs that encourage women to pursue math, science and technology careers is one part of the state's success.

She says another area where Tennessee excels is a large number of women's networking and leadership organizations that help connect women with resources and possible business leads.

William Arth is a senior research manager for the Tennessee Economic Council on Women and says networking groups and community support can go a long way in advancing the position of women in the economy.

"A big part of overcoming that and ensuring that women can be a part of Tennessee's successes is creating a social environment in which we can see a man and a woman as equally likely to succeed in entrepreneurship," says Arth. "And to ensure that women see themselves as that."

Arth says leveling the playing field starts with everyone understanding what women can contribute to the economy.

"They need to be seen as a viable investment, breaking those old traditions and those old trends, making sure investors and other business owners can see a woman as a likely strong entrepreneur," he says. "It's an important thing moving forward."

According to the WalletHub report, there are more than 9.4 million women-owned businesses operating nationwide, pulling in annual revenues of $1.5 trillion and employing 8 million workers.

Stephanie Carson/Judy Steffes, Public News Service - TN