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The Twin Cities are one of the best places for women entrepreneurs

Despite a first-class business climate for female business owners, experts say there's more work to be done.

Despite a first-class business climate for female business owners, experts say there's more work to be done.

Congratulations, Minnesota. We’ve apparently got the whole gender inequality thing under wraps. Uh, kinda.

According to a recent NerdWallet ranking, the Twin Cities is one of the 10 best metros for women entrepreneurs. The financial-minded list-maker crafted a nifty formula that took data from the U.S. Census and the Small Business Administration to determine the best towns based on the number of women-owned businesses, their revenue, income gaps, and other genderific economic indicators. Minneapolis-St. Paul registered at number eight out of 174 metros ranked.

“I think for those of us with boots on the ground, we were a little surprised, honestly,” says Elaine Wyatt, executive director of WomenVenture.

There’s nothing particularly anti-X chromosome about Minnesota’s business climate, she says. But as someone who heads an organization that helps women get their businesses off the ground, Wyatt sees myriad obstacles female entrepreneurs face. Chief among them is finding the scratch to get started.

Of all the money American banks lend startups, women-owned businesses receive only 4 percent, she says. Although aspiring entrepreneurs benefit from Minnesota’s Fortune 500 contingency and a women’s initiative from the U of M’s Carlson School of Management, women traditionally have fewer training options and different networks than their male counterparts, Wyatt says. Some of these issues are intertwined.

“A lot of men are able to finance their businesses through their networks, their best friend knows a guy who works at a bank, that kind of thing,” Wyatt says.

Per NerdWallet, Colorado and California are meccas for women looking to be their own bosses, as the two states took seven of the top 10 spots. Boulder, Colorado, topped the list, followed by Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Denver.

While the study shows the Twin Cities has one of the lowest rates of women-owned businesses per capita among the top 10, their $156,000 average revenue and comparatively slim income gap were among the best. According to the study, local women’s median income is 84 percent of men’s. The national average is just 78 percent. 

“It’s good in that we’re above average,” says Barbara Battiste, director of Minnesota’s Office on the Economic Status of Women. “It’s sad in that this number has increased very little in the last 10 years, this gender pay gap.”

Although she touts a 2014 state law aimed at narrowing the gap, which created grants to fund training in typically male-dominated industries, Battiste says many women still gravitate toward less blingy careers. Instead of the boys’ club-y financial sector, a good portion still become social workers, nurses, or land in other traditionally female-heavy professions.

To combat this sort of cultural conditioning, Battiste says there’s been increased talk of getting girls thinking about vocational or other dude-saturated industries starting in middle and high school.

“Hopefully, eventually there will be a critical mass — a tipping point — of enough women going into those [jobs] where that when women do go into those fields they won’t feel alone and alienated, and it will be more accepted,” Battiste says.