WASHINGTON -- In the latest feminist breakthrough, businesses owned by women will employ more people this year than the entire Fortune 500, according to a study released yesterday.
The expansion makes such companies a "new economic force," according to the report by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners and by Cognetics Inc., a corporate research company.
"With the kind of restructuring that is going on in the economy, you can look to women business owners as a very stable source of private jobs," said Gillian Rudd, chairwoman of the foundation's research arm.
There were 5.4 million female-owned companies in 1990, with almost 11 million workers, the report said. And they provide jobs for about 10 percent of the U.S. work force.
Women, the report said, are opening businesses 50 percent faster than men, at a rate of 300,000 a year. Women own 28 percent of all businesses, according to the survey.
The Fortune 500 companies have been cutting back staffing at an annual rate of up to 400,000 workers. They had 12.3 million employees in 1990, 4 million fewer than in 1980. The trend will take their total work force this year below the number employed by women, according to the research.
"It says to me that now the nation's policy-makers, the nation's financial community should look at us, take a good hard look, and make the investment in what is the best and brightest of our industry," Ms. Rudd said.
David Birch, president of Massachusetts-based Cognetics, said at a news conference that women own companies in all sectors of the economy.
Laura Henderson, who founded Prospect Associates, a 150-employee health communications and biomedical research company in Rockville, Md., 13 years ago, said, "The revolution has been quiet, but it has been extremely strong.