The Face of the Immigrant Entrepreneur – No Longer Male

The Numbers of Female Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Steadily Rising

Forty percent of all immigrant owned businesses are headed by women. (Photo: BMann/Flickr)

Being an immigrant is hard. So is being an entrepreneur.

This no-brainer was confirmed by a report released Thursday by The Immigration Policy Center titled “Our American Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The Women.”

According to one of the authors, Susan C. Pearce, the paper aims to “help change the face of what we see when we hear the words ‘immigrant entrepreneur.’” And what we see, according to Pearce, is a male immigrant who brings his wife to America and takes her in as a volunteer assistant at a shop that he started.

The authors pit the rise of immigrant women entrepreneurs against this stereotype, which seemed outdated even before they began rolling out the following statistics.

  • Immigrant women are much more likely to be entrepreneurs than U.S. born women, a trend particularly visible over the last decade.
  • In 2000, about five percent of women -both immigrant and native-born women – owned their own business.
  • By 2010, 6.5 percent of native-born women owned their own business, while for immigrant women the number had grown to more than 9 percent.
  • Forty percent of all immigrant businesses are owned by women — impressive considering according to 2007 census numbers, only 28.8 percent of American businesses were woman-owned.

Pearce summarized the challenges that female immigrants face — a lack of social infrastructure, the feeling of being frozen out of the conventional workplace — challenges that echo those of immigrants in general.

That female immigrants face the same societal challenges as women and immigrants is no surprise, but despite these challenges, immigrant women—while trailing slightly behind immigrant men—are doing well and certainly are doing better in terms of business ownership than their native-born counterparts.

Take for example, India-born Rubina Chaudhary, president of MARRS, an engineering, management and environmental services consulting firm that provides employment for over 50 people, 78 percent of whom are U.S. citizens. Or Ecuadorian immigrant and fashion designer Yolanda Voss, who passes on her skills to apprentices and interns. And Angela Chan, who heads up a wheel manufacturing company and volunteers hours along with her employees to a health clinic in Los Angeles.

The numbers detailed in the report are helpful, but the idea that the face of the immigrant entrepreneur is male seems totally outdated. Furthermore, drawing a line between men and women in the immigrant community seems artificial when compared to the common misapprehension that immigrants — regardless of gender — are viewed as a drain on the economy.

As Chaudhury, Voss, Chan and the others interviewed in the paper show, immigrants contribute to their communities and the U.S. economy as a whole. These days, there’s a good chance these immigrants are women.

AboutAurora Almendral
Aurora Almendral is a Philippine-born freelance writer based in New York City. As a Fulbright Scholar to Morocco and Spain, she researched and filmed a documentary on entrepreneurship and illegal immigration in Madrid. She previously worked as a research assistant at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and has written for Filipinas Magazine and New America Media.