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New study finds challenges and opportunities for women-owned businesses in Utah

A woman smiles, holding a plate of food.

The Utah Women and Leadership Project recently released a new survey on the challenges and opportunities for women-owned businesses in Utah.

The Women’s Business Center commissioned a survey in 1977 of women-owned businesses in Utah. Since that study, no significant survey had been done, a problem Ann Marie Wallace, State Director of the Utah Center, felt needed to be addressed.

“It was probably four or five years ago that I thought we really need to do something like that,” Wallace said. “I would love to have the current landscape of women business owners in our state.”

Utah ranks 45th in the number of women-owned businesses nationwide, but according to Wallace, that number isn’t entirely accurate. That ranking considers businesses with at least one employee or more, yet 44.3% of Utah respondents from this study declared themselves self-employed with no other employees.

“That ranking doesn't even consider all those that do their own thing, own their own business, like independent contractors doing a side gig — doesn't include them at all,” Wallace said.

Though this ranking may not reflect Utah as a whole, Wallace said they found there are still many disadvantages for women wanting to start their own business. In response to an open-ended question, women described issues related to gender as one of the biggest barriers.

“When approaching potential investors, I am not taken seriously as the investors have been men,” one respondent wrote.

“I think that if a woman wants to start a business, she should be able to, she should not have a barrier in front of her,” Wallace said. “If she needs to access money, it should be the same journey as a man. That's not the case right now.”

Women in Utah do not have it easy when starting a business. Thankfully, that’s not stopping them from following their dreams – and it’s not stopping people like Wallace from discussing how to break down those barriers and open up opportunities for women in the future.

A long time lover of NPR and radio reporting, Clayre Scott joined UPR in August of 2021 as the producer of the weekly podcast UnDisciplined. She began reporting in 2022 and now enjoys telling stories through sound and getting weekly texts from her family after hearing her on the radio. Along with her work at UPR, Clayre is attending Utah State University to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism, with time on the side to study Political Science and Art History.