Business Ownership by Gender in Oregon

by Gail Krumenauer

May 19, 2016

Every five years the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a survey of business owners as a part of the Economic Census. The results take some time to publish – the 2012 data were recently released – but provide insightful information about business ownership by gender, race, and ethnicity not available through any other source.
Higher Sales and Wages in Male-Owned Firms

In 2012, the Census estimates Oregon had 339,000 firms. Of these, 331,000 were classifiable by gender, ethnicity, or race. Men owned half of these firms, while women owned 37 percent, and equally male/female owned businesses made up 13 percent of the total.

Although men's firm ownership share was proportionate – they also made 50 percent of the state's population in 2012 – male-owned firms made up 75 percent of all firm sales and receipts in Oregon. Equally male/female owned firms accounted for 13 percent of sales and receipts, the same as the share of total firms. Sales and receipts from female-owned businesses made up a smaller share (12%) of total sales and receipts than their firm ownership share. Oregon's male-owned firms with payroll employees also paid higher average wages ($39,000) than their female-owned counterparts ($28,600).

This disparity in firm sales and receipts and average wages can be partially attributed to the industry distribution of firms by male and female ownership. Oregon industries with the largest sales, receipts, or value of shipments in 2012 included wholesale trade, retail trade, manufacturing, and construction. The number of male-owned firms in these industries totaled 48,900. By comparison, women owned less than half as many firms (20,900) in these sectors.

Oregon's top-paying industries also had far more firms owned by men. Male-owned businesses made up 61 percent of the total in management of companies and enterprises, which paid an average of $69,200 in 2012. Men owned roughly two-thirds of all finance and insurance firms ($60,000), as well as all mining and quarrying businesses ($56,400).
Still, in industries where both men and women had high concentrations of firm ownership, the male-owned businesses with payroll employees reported higher average wages. Female-owned retail trade businesses (13,700) outnumbered retail businesses owned by men (12,500). The average wage at the female-owned businesses was $25,300, while the average wage at male-owned retail firms was $28,900.

The Census data aren't available at a more detailed level, but one assumption here could be that men are more likely to own higher-paying types of retail firms, while women are more likely owners of the lower-paying retail firms. In 2012, Oregon's new car dealers, recreational vehicle dealers, and tire dealers paid the highest average wages in retail. Children's and infants' clothing stores paid the lowest average wage of all retail industries, followed by hobby, toy, and game stores and florists.

Female-Dominated Industries

Female-owned firms did lead in terms of firm ownership in a couple of industries. Women owned the majority of health care and social assistance businesses (64%) and other services firms (54%) in Oregon. Other services includes a diverse mix of establishments, including personal care services, social advocacy organizations, and business associations, among others.

Female-owned firms with employees also paid higher average wages in two traditionally male-dominated sectors. The largest difference occurred in transportation and warehousing: female-owned businesses paid $53,200, while male-owned firms paid $40,600 in 2012. Average wages in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting totaled $40,000 in female-owned firms, while male-owned businesses averaged $39,700 per employee. In the natural resources businesses, equally male/female owned firms fared best of all, with a $44,600 average wage.

More information about business ownership by industry and gender, race, or ethnicity can be found at

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