The average working woman in the United States makes about 72
cents for every dollar made by her male colleagues.
That's up from about 60 cents two decades ago. The remaining gap,
some analysts suspect, may be one reason women are launching their
own businesses in grand style. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of
women-owned private firms increased to 6.2 million, a gain of 14
percent. This is twice the growth rate for all firms.
But when asked, the new female proprietors or owners don't
complain about the salary in their former corporate jobs, says
Sharon Hadary, executive director of the Center for Women's Business
Research (CWBR) in Washington.
"They see the excitement of an entrepreneurial idea," she says.
And they note that other women have started successful businesses.
They have role models.
These women-owned firms employ 9.2 million people, a CWBR study
To some extent, the rush into starting their own firms is a catch-
up phenomenon. In 1996, 7.1 percent of females in the labor force
were self-employed, compared with 11.9 percent for males.
Many new women entrepreneurs do decry a lack of flexibility in
their old corporate roles. They hope that with their own businesses,
they can take a morning off to go to a child's performance in a
school play, and finish work later.
Also, the new bosses welcome the prospect of being in charge of
their firms' direction. In their former companies, they often saw
themselves as not being part of the leadership.
Dr. Hadary, a trained psychologist, doesn't see much "conscious
discrimination" by male executives against women in big companies.
On the contrary, most corporations make an effort to level the
playing field for women and minorities through their personnel
policies - as the law requires.
Nonetheless, she says, there is a natural tendency for people to
prefer to do business with those who resemble themselves - white men
with white men, and, for that matter, women with women.
"The old-boy network" remains in place, says Judith Hellerstein,
an economist at the University of Maryland, College Park.
She's one of four authors of a soon-to-be published academic
study indicating that as much as half of the 32 percent female-male
wage gap in 1990 could be attributable to gender discrimination. The
rest is accounted for by the segregation of women into lower-paying
occupations, industries, firms, and occupations within such
Another expert, Francine Blau at Cornell University in Ithaca,
N.Y., estimates 12 to 20 percentage points of the wage gap could be
due to gender discrimination. She finds the gender gap did not close
much in the 1990s. …