The US is full of inspirational, driven women succeeding in business every day. Just like any other business owner, they need communications tools like local phone numbers to service their customers – but is the country doing everything it can to help empower more women to lead business innovation in 2020 and beyond? The National Association of Women Business Owners tells us that female-lead businesses generated over $1.7 trillion in sales in 2019  – but can we do even better? To find out, we delved deep into the latest business data and statistics from across the United States to see how much progress was made in the 2010s, and where it could all go over the next decade.


Our Women in Business Index constituted six unique data points collected from six different sources. For each factor, data was collected for the earliest and latest year it was available in the 2010s. Here are the data points, years of data collected (if relevant) and links to data sources.

  1. Percentage of women in executive positions – U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2010-2018)
  2. Female earnings as a percentage of male earnings – United States Census Bureau (2015-2018)
  3. Percentage of female-owned businesses – United States Census Bureau (2014-2016)
  4. Future job growth – BestPlaces
  5. Population growth – World Population Review (2010-2020)
  6. Economic growth – U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (2010-2018)

Data was collected for the top 50 US cities by population, and a positive or negative trend was calculated based on the progress made over those years.  Based on the strength of the trend, each city was given a percentile score out of 100 for each of the six ranking factors – the higher the score the steeper the positive trend. The six percentile scores were then added together for a total score out of 600.

Final Positions 

The research whittled the cities down to the top 20 most progressive cities for women in business in the 2020s and beyond. Here is how they finished:    TollFreeForwarding_Best Cities For Women_Top_20_2

PositionCityScore (out of 600)
4.San Diego434
6.Fort Worth426
9.Colorado Springs394
15.San Jose370
17.San Antonio362

If you’re a woman looking to pursue a successful business career in the future, it could be time to head to Austin. The Texan city just beat out Raleigh, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon to the top spot.

The Top 3

How did the top three beat off 47 other major US cities to the top spot? Here is an analysis of their positions for each ranking factor, plus a case study from a businesswoman in each city explaining why it’s just a great location for women in business.

1. Austin, Texas

Percentage of women in executive positions: +1.83% (26th overall)  Female earnings as a percentage of male earnings: +1.5% (16th)  Percentage of femaleowned businesses+1.73% (2nd)    Future job growth:+46.97% (5th)   Population growth:+28.9% (2nd)   Economic growth:+63.625 (4th)  Austin was placed in the top ten cities for no less than four of the ranking factors, Austin only positioned outside the top 20 for one factor – the percentage of women in executive positions.  Their strongest female-lead data came with the number of businesses owned by women, growing by 1.73% to 22.75%.   Their other strong performances came in our broader economy-based factors. Future job growth, economic growth, and population growth show how Austin has become has of the fastest-growing cities in America. There may be no place better for women become looking to launch a career in business.     Cindy Y.Lo, CEO and founder of Red Velvet Events, gave us her thoughts on why Austin is a great place to be for female business-owners: “I believe why Austin is so female-business friendly is the city itself has a culture of sharing as opposed to pure competition. As an example, I meet and chat with at least 2 or 3 new female entrepreneurs a month just to help them get started and share advice so they don’t feel alone on this journey. “Plus, we are a college town with a pretty strong ratio of female students. With each graduating class, we have the opportunity to change the narrative and encourage other female students to start a business post-graduation.”

2. Raleigh, North Carolina

Percentage of women in executive positions: +3.42% (12th)   Female earnings as a percentage of male earnings: +1.4% (17th)  Percentage of femaleowned businesses+0.42% (20th)   Future job growth:+44.17% (11th)  Population growth:+22.46% (8th)   Economic growth:+56.22% (7th)   Raleigh comes second by virtue of an excellent all-round performance. With no positions outside the top 20, women who head to Raleigh will find a city of opportunity, equality, and growth.   The city’s best positions were top ten finishes in population growth (increasing by over 22%) and economic growth (up by over 56%). These may not directly concern women, but solid performances with the female-led factors show how the city is a top choice for women in business.

3. Portland, Oregon

Percentage of women in executive positions: +5.05% (3rd)  Female earnings as a percentage of male earnings: +6.7% (3rd)  Percentage of femaleowned businesses+0.13% (28th)   Future job growth:+42.39% (16th)  Population growth:+15.94% (16th)   Economic growth:+49.35% (13th)   “Being a female business owner in a male-driven space might pose some problems elsewhere in the country, but in Portland, it seems to be no problem. It’s well-known that Portland is a progressive region of the PNW, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that equality is at the forefront of the customer-base here. “There has never been a better time for women to advance themselves professionally, so I say the more the merrier! Speaking of, I have also noticed that the support network for female executives is typically really strong and accommodating.”   Lisa Tadewaldt, owner of Portland-based Urban Forest Pro, told us how the progressive city of Portland helps her in a male-dominated industry. “Being a female business owner in a male-driven space *might *pose some problems elsewhere in the country, but in Portland, it seems to be nothing special. It’s well-known that Portland is a progressive region of the PNW, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that equality is at the forefront of the customer-base here. “There has never been a better time for women to advance themselves professionally, so I say the more the merrier! Speaking of, I have also noticed that the support network for female executives is typically really strong and accommodating.”

Empowering Women in Business: Now and in 2030

Austin, Raleigh, and Portland may have had the best performance when you tally up all the six data points we collected but drilling down into specific factors help shine a light on other cities that require mention.   Our research studied data trends. Applying the growth (positive or negative) to each city up to 2030, we were able to predict which places would be the first to breakdown societal barriers and claim absolute business equality of genders.

Women in Executive Positions

Greater representation of women at board level is an important yardstick for progress. More women means a more pluralistic business, bringing new experiences and thought-processes to board-level decision making.    TollFreeForwarding_Women_in_Executive_Positions_2 Here, the most progress has been made by Louisville in Kentucky. More than 7.5% more women work at executive level in the city than they did earlier in the decade. If they continue on this progressive path, by 2030 almost half of all boardroom positions will be filled by women.   By 2030, Portland will be the other US city to break the 40% barrier, but it may be Baltimore who deserves the most acclaim. Their promotion of women in business will see them jump up to 5th by 2030 if the trend remains consistent.

Female Earnings as a Percentage of Male Earnings 

The gender pay gap, as it is widely known, has become the most controversial area of gender inequality. These are the cities blazing a trail for the rest of the US in search of equality:  TollFreeForwarding_gender_pay_gap

Baltimore is again present among the top five – holding its position of 2nd by 2030. Portland also performs strongly, but neither could beat San Antonio, who have closed their gender pay gap by a wider margin than anyone else.   The latest figures have women earning 89.1% of male earnings. At that rate, they should have closed the gender pay gap by 2022. Other cities that could achieve the feat by 2030 on current trends include Houston, Oakland, Baltimore, Portland, Sacramento, and Detroit.

Female Owned Businesses*

Finally, female-owned businesses. Growth in this area has been slower than in other areas, but it is no less important. Women need to feel empowered to go it alone and start their own organization. Nowhere has that happened more than in San Diego.     women owned businesses top 10 cities

Representation is still well below half across the US, but in the last few years, San Diego has managed to nudge itself above one in five of all businesses owned by women.   Given the slow nature of progress, not much changes in our 2030 predictions, with the same top five cities in place. Austin is the biggest winner. By 2030, almost 35% of all businesses will be owned by women in the city.   If the trends of the 2010s continue over the next decade, more progress will be made to a more equal business world. Despite most of the US heading in the right direction, change is slow. With more support and greater attention paid to women looking to succeed in business, we could see more barriers broken down, building a fairer business world by 2030.     *Note: These seven of 50 cities in our study had no data on this topic and were given a score of 0 for this factor: El Paso, TX, Albuquerque, NM, Tucson, AZ, Fresno, CA, Colorado Springs, CO, Omaha, NE, Tulsa, OK.