Immigrant Entrepreneurs Take the Lead

Monday, December 19, 2011

Immigrant women are starting all kinds of businesses in the United States and leading American-born counterparts, a new report finds. Authors also find they face barriers and encourage policies to ease the way for this energized group of job creators.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Rubina Chaudhary started her business on a dare.

"I came here in 1987 with my husband, three young children and a newly minted MBA," says the Indian-born owner and president of the engineering firm MARRS Services in Fullerton, Calif.

At first she ran training seminars on business skills. After a client challenged her to start her own business, she decided to try the engineering consulting field "because it was dominated by males. I also wanted to make more money so I could send my children to good schools."

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Today, Chaudhary has 50 full- and part-time staff; 78 percent are U.S. citizens and 35 percent are women. Her husband is her partner in the firm, which earns $6.5 million annually.

Chaudhary is part of a wave of immigrant women who started small businesses in the United States between 2000 and 2010, according to "Our American Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The Women," published this month by the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center, an arm of the American Immigration Council, an advocacy organization.

The report finds more immigrant women are at the helm of small businesses than American-born counterparts. The two groups had roughly equal ownership rates in 2000, with each claiming about 5 percent of overall business ownership, according to statistics in the report. By 2010 the rate for immigrant women had grown to 9 percent, while American-born female counterparts trailed at 6.5 percent.

Forty percent of all immigrant business owners were women by 2010, (1,451,091 immigrant men and 980,575 immigrant women), according to the report, and 20 percent of all female business owners were foreign-born.

This trend was flagged earlier in a 2007 report prepared for Intuit Inc. by Robert W. Fairlie, an economics professor at University of California, Santa Cruz.

The new Immigration Policy Center report was adapted from a chapter of the book, "Immigration and Women: Understanding the American Experience," by Susan Pearce, Elizabeth Clifford and Reena Tandon.

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You may find this book of interest: Female Immigrant Entrepreneurs Ed. Halkias et al at www.gowerpublishing.com/isbn/9780566089138 Review: 'This pioneering, truly global collection of fieldwork-based studies fills a very significant gap in the literature on immigrant entrepreneurship. Not only has the role of female entrepreneurs been largely neglected in this literature; the range of cases examined has been extremely narrow. The volume delivers a wealth of empirical evidence on how female immigrant entrepreneurs actually start and operate small businesses, and how their activities contribute more broadly to immigrant economic incorporation. This book is a model of research in comparative immigration studies.' Dr Wayne Cornelius, Co-Director, University of California Global Health Institute; Director Emeritus, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California-San Diego, USA.