In 2010 at least 980,000 immigrant women were business owners, according to a report released Thursday by the Immigration Policy Center.

“Our American Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The Women” (.pdf) states: “When Americans picture an immigrant entrepreneur, they likely imagine a man who began the migration of his family, later bringing his wife over to become a volunteer assistant in the shop. This image is straying farther and farther from reality as more women open their own enterprises.”

The report adds that in 2000, more than 575,000 immigrant women were self employed, a number that by 2010 “had grown to more than 9 percent, while the native‐born women’s rate grew to 6.5 percent.”

“In 2010, 40 percent of all immigrant business owners were women (1,451,091 immigrant men and 980,575 immigrant women). That same year, 20 percent of all women business owners were foreign‐born,” the report adds.

Despite this growth, women-owned businesses face challenges.

According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, “businesses owned by women of color constitute one of the fastest growing segments of the United States economy, with minority women starting new firms at five times the rate of all other businesses,” but “the average revenue of these businesses is less than 25% of that of businesses owned by their White counterparts.”

A 2009 report (.pdf) issued by the Women’s Business Research indicates that an “estimated 8 million U.S. businesses [are] currently majority women-owned,” and “have an economic impact of $3 trillion annually that translates into the creation and/or maintenance of more than 23 million jobs – 16 percent of all U.S. jobs!”

The Immigration Policy report profiles several immigrant women who have similar yet different stories: Some left their countries and came to the the U.S. as refugees, others left difficult personal relationships in their home country, some did not speak English. They also have different education levels, but most were underemployed, working at low-wage jobs.

“A repeated, prominent strand in these women’s decision to start their own business was the desire for independence. As one put it, ‘I don’t want to work for anybody,’” the report adds.

Women profiled in this report recommend:

  • Make startup capital easier to access—and in larger amounts.
  • Remove or reform bureaucratic hurdles to startups.
  • Provide clearer information on local, state, and federal regulations.
  • Given the realities of discrimination, renew efforts to support set‐asides, based on gender as well as nativity and race.
  • Continue to address barriers to women’s success in the conventional workplace.
  • Accelerate attempts to make it easier to balance paid employment with family demands.
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