By Jill Cowan and Tyler Davis The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Karyl Innis, chief executive and founder of a Dallas-based career management company, said measuring entrepreneurship among women can be complicated. For many women -- at least, historically -- starting a business means building a successful strategy into their lives while carefully managing the financial risks to their families. As a result, many women are successfully self-employed but don't pay other employees. Thus, they would NOT show up in the new Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs.
The Dallas Morning News
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
For some, the word may not immediately conjure the image of an immigrant restaurateur who grows his business slowly, adding locations only after years of success.
Others may not think of a mother who opens her own consulting shop as the second act in a career spent climbing the ranks of a big corporation.
Now, a new survey of employers -- the result of a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Minority Business Development Agency -- aims to better understand the full range of the nation's entrepreneurs.
The first Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs was designed to fill in gaps between the Census Bureau's business owners survey done every five years. Arnobio Morelix, a senior research analyst with the Kauffman Foundation, said the new data will be not only more timely but more localized.
"I'm personally very excited about this data because it really tells the story of American entrepreneurship," he said. "It's going to have data we've literally never had before [that will help us] understand what kind of problems we may be facing."
In Dallas-Fort Worth and Texas, the business community is still dominated by companies owned by men and by white people -- though to a lesser extent than other states and cities, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of the survey results.
As of 2014, when the survey was taken, about a quarter of all the D-FW companies surveyed were minority-owned, placing it 11th out of the 50 biggest metro areas.
While 26 percent of companies were minority-owned in Texas, The News' analysis also showed that the state's newer entrepreneurs were a more diverse group than employers overall. A third of Texas companies that were less than two years old had minority owners.
Texas also ranked third among states for minority business ownership, trailing only Hawaii and California.
Jerry White, director of Southern Methodist University's Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, said he's noticed that increasing diversity in his classes.
"We have a diverse population, and just your gut instinct would be that you'd like to see the incidence of entrepreneurship at least somewhat reflective of the citizenry," he said.
That range of perspectives, White said, contributes to the region's "economic dynamism" and, in turn, powers growth. It's straightforward economics, he said.
"When people start and build businesses, they hire other people ... When they stay in business, they accumulate wealth, they buy cars and houses and send their kids to college."
Nationally, Kauffman Foundation statistics show the business community is moving in the right direction. Between 1996 and 2015, the percentage of new entrepreneurs who were Latino roughly doubled, as did the percentage of new entrepreneurs who were Asian.
The percentage of people starting businesses who were white, meanwhile, declined from about 77 percent to 60 percent during that same time.
But experts said the wide gap between the numbers of companies owned by men and women, both at the national and local levels, was troubling.
D-FW fared relatively poorly by that measure, The News' analysis found.
The analysis showed that D-FW ranks 33rd among the 50 biggest metro areas in the country for companies owned by women, with 20.6 percent of companies classified as women-owned. Austin ranked 11th and Houston came in at 24th.
Still, Karyl Innis, chief executive and founder of a Dallas-based career management company, said measuring entrepreneurship among women can be complicated.
She said that although it's certainly important to track demographics among employers, women are more likely to approach entrepreneurship in a way that falls outside the traditional "entrepreneur-as-visionary innovator" narrative.
"If you think about the definition of entrepreneurship, people sound quite august about it, like ... 'Entrepreneurship is creating a new product or service ... around a need they have the vision to see,' " Innis said. "With women especially, it's the other way."
For many women -- at least, historically -- starting a business means building a successful strategy into their lives while carefully managing the financial risks to their families.
"The career arc for women is different," she said.
As a result, many women are successfully self-employed but don't pay other employees. Thus, they wouldn't show up in the new Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs.
Of course, that's in large part because of societal factors -- pressure to care for kids, say, while also holding down a full-time job -- that have led to inequality between men and women in workforce participation overall, not just as business owners.
Innis said she sees Dallas as having a robust community of women business owners, though she could see why Austin's university pipeline might give it an edge in rankings.
In any case, she said, building a more diverse entrepreneurial community will require something that's key to any successful business strategy: networking.
"For a city to grow, for people to grow, for things to remain vibrant ... we need to have the best inputs," she said. "One of the things that means to me is that every single person is responsible for developing their own personal relationships outside of their gender, their ethnicity, their age and their geography."