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The National Women’s Business Council recently released the report Rural Women Entrepreneurs: Challenges and Opportunities, which provides insight into the dynamics and trends of rural women who own their businesses. It not only highlights opportunities and challenges rural women face in entrepreneurship compared to rural men and non-rural women, but also suggests areas for further research and policy examination to help empower this group through business ownership.
Many are married: Almost 75 percent of rural women entrepreneurs are married compared to 55 percent of the total population. This indicates that marriage might be an important factor in understanding the businesses these women start, what motivates them and the support they receive.
Popular Industries and Occupations: Despite geographical location, women entrepreneurs tend to gravitate towards certain industries, such as child care, beauty salons, building and dwelling services, real estate, restaurants, and food services. For rural women, common industries also include animal and crop production.
In terms of occupation, rural women entrepreneurs often works as farmers, ranchers, agricultural managers, child care workers, managers, maids and housekeepers, counselors and teachers.
Some “don’t want” internet: Rural women are the least likely to have internet access at home compared to women entrepreneurs as a whole, but this is not because it is not available to them. Almost 80 percent do have internet access, and those without it say they simply “don’t want it.” Less than 5 percent of rural women without internet access said they did not have access.
Rural women earn less than urban women While the average total income for women entrepreneurs in urban areas is nearly $40,000 per year, this decines to a little over $30,000 for rural areas. Men entrepreneurs generally earn more than women entrepreneurs across the U.S., but the gender gap is more pronounced in rural areas and specifically to entrepreneurship.
Women entrepreneurs with children: In rural areas, women entrepreneurs with children tend to earn 25 percent less than those without children. This is a common trend for women entrepreneurs in the states, but the difference is smaller in suburban and urban areas. In contrast, men entrepreneurs with children tend to earn more than those without children.
Poverty and SNAP Usage: Poverty is a prevalent problem in rural areas, but women entrepreneurs are less likely to be classified as low income than rural women who do not own their own business. Related to poverty, women entrepreneurs are more likely than their male counterparts to utilize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
This gap is larger in rural areas as about 12 percent of women entrepreneurs and over 21 percent of women non-entrepreneurs qualify for SNAP by meeting the basic income threshold.
This research provides a firm foundation for further investigation into the role of entrepreneurship among women in rural areas, an often overlooked community. To see the full report, click here.