Woman-Run Businesses In Massachusetts Outperform Firms Nationwide As Key Drivers Of The Economy

Released: 11/30/2007 11:30 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Babson College
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Newswise — A major research study released today by Babson College and The Commonwealth Institute finds that woman-led businesses in Massachusetts are strong engines of economic growth, consistently outperforming national and state growth rates for each of the six years that the study was conducted. The Top Woman-Led Businesses in Massachusetts: 2006 Results study found that woman-led businesses are key drivers of Massachusetts' revenue and employment as well as strong sources of philanthropic activity. The companies reporting revenues in the survey generated $10.2 billion, and together, all of the companies surveyed employed more than 24,000 people in Massachusetts.

The study also identified the Top 100 Woman-led businesses in Massachusetts based on 2006 revenues. The listing is necessary to highlight women CEOs of high performing companies in a state in which woman-led firms make up just 2.7 percent of the business population. The top five companies are: Cumberland Farms Inc. in the number one spot; followed by Agar Supply Co., Inc.; Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Axcelis Technologies; and Garber Travel. The Top 100 list includes 20 companies that are newly represented this year, including one in the top ten. Five of the top ten companies had revenues greater than $400 million in 2006. The average revenues of participating companies was $60.1 million in 2006 ($30.5 million without the largest company) and more than half of the companies on the Top 100 listing had 2006 revenues greater than $10 million.

The Top Woman-Led Businesses in Massachusetts: 2006 Results research study was co-developed by The Center for Women's Leadership at Babson College and The Commonwealth Institute. This study, which is being conducted for the sixth time, is a culmination of six years of data. It identifies the top 100 woman-led businesses in the state and includes data from 177 woman-led firms. The research shows the consistent growth of woman-led firms over time.

Following are key trends that the study uncovered:

Woman-run businesses continue to grow. More than 60 percent of the firms grew by more than five percent, in contrast to the statewide average for all firms of 3.3 percent growth in 2006 and the national average of 3.1 percent growth for that year. Nearly 80 percent of the firms in the study grew at least one percent. This growth is expected to continue, with nearly 64 percent of the firms in the study predicting growth greater than five percent and 89 percent predicting at least one percent growth. The companies plan to drive growth through a strong market focus on new clients and customers, new products, and geographic growth as well as through new channels and acquisitions.

Debunking the perception that women predominantly run lifestyle or retail businesses, the CEOs in the study lead companies in every sector of the Massachusetts economy. Woman-led firms in Massachusetts are most heavily concentrated in: professional services (38 percent), high-technology (9.8 percent), construction (8.5 percent), travel and leisure (7.8 percent) and health care,
pharmaceuticals and medical products (7.2 percent). This significantly differs from national woman-led firms, which are predominately in retail; real estate; and professional, scientific and technical services.

In contrast to the perception that women business leaders are risk averse, women CEOs in Massachusetts on average are proactive and more likely to make bold decisions to maximize potential opportunities. They take an entrepreneurial approach to business, and exhibit strong leadership traits. The women CEOs of the participating firms are opportunity-oriented problem-solvers who embrace innovation and change. Women leaders in Massachusetts are committed to building their businesses for the long-term, serving in their current positions on average for 14 years. These CEOs are typically owners of their firms. More than 95 percent are privately held and approximately 80 percent of the CEOs hold controlling ownership.

Women leaders in Massachusetts stand out from their national peers in their degree of education and professional experience. Ninety-five percent of these leaders have college degrees. Significantly more of the women CEOs of larger firms have graduate degrees than their peers at smaller firms. They alsohave an average of 29 years of professional experience.

In contrast to cost-benefit approaches to management that rely on cost cutting, women CEOs drive profitability through customer relationships, enhanced products/services and higher margin products. This connects to their demonstrated people-oriented approach to doing business " customers first, employees second, community third.

Nearly 80 percent of the leaders are personally active in nonprofit, civic and philanthropic organizations. The larger the firms, the more likely the CEOs are to be active in philanthropy. In addition, woman-led firms are frequently engaged in community giving, with high levels of employee input and participation.

"Woman-run companies have consistently outpaced the local and national growth rates for the six years of our study despite the economic conditions," said Dr. I. Elaine Allen, Associate Professor of Statistics & Entrepreneurship atBabson College and co-author of the study. "These businesses are among the highest performing in the state and we can learn a lot from the CEOs leading them. They are focused on building strong businesses for the long-term and have committed themselves and the resources of their organization to growth. They take an entrepreneurial approach to business and are not afraid of taking risks to take advantage of business opportunities."

"These CEOs provide excellent role models for business leadership," said Aileen Gorman, executive director of The Commonwealth Institute. "Their focus on customers, employees and the community engenders loyalty and productivity, and contributes to the long-term success of their businesses and the economy."

About the Study

This is the sixth study conducted by The Center for Women's Leadership at Babson College and The Commonwealth Institute on woman-led businesses in Massachusetts. Qualified participant companies have a woman chief executive who is the senior executive decision maker of the firm, are headquartered in Massachusetts, and are either independent businesses or legal subsidiaries of larger corporations. Medical, law and banking firms as well as non-profits were not included in the study. The full research report, including the Top 100 list, is available from Babson's Center for Women's Leadership and can be downloaded at www.babson.edu/cwl/top100.

About Babson College

The Center for Women's Leadership at Babson College is the first center dedicated to women in business and entrepreneurship at a leading school of management. Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. was founded in 1919, and is recognized internationally as the leader in entrepreneurial management education. For more information on Babson visit: http://www.babson.edu.

About the Commonwealth Institute

The Commonwealth Institute is a dynamic, non-profit organization founded in 1997 to help women entrepreneurs, CEOs and senior corporate executives build successful businesses. The goal of The Commonwealth Institute is to reach women leaders during the critical stages of their businesses and to provide them with the tools and resources they need for growth. Further information on The Commonwealth Institute can be found at: http://www.commonwealthinstitute.org.

Sponsors of a private reception honoring the 2006 Top 100 Woman-Led Businesses in Massachusetts include Bingham McCutchen, The Bulfinch Group, Braver and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.



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