By Nellie Akalp (CEO, CorpNet)
In 2010, women became the majority of the U.S. workforce for the first time in the country’s history. Also, 57% of college students are now women. While men continue to dominate the executive ranks and corporate board rooms, women now hold a number of lucrative careers: they make up 54% of accountants, 45% of law associates and approximately 50% of all banking and insurance jobs. These statistics, which appeared in Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic article “The End of Men”, have prompted considerable attention and debate.

Women are advancing in entrepreneurship as well. An American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses report found that between 1997 and 2011, the number of businesses in the U.S. increased by 34%, but the number of women-owned firms increased by 50%. That compares to a growth rate of just 25% for male-owned firms and has allowed businesses owned by females to reach 49% of U.S. firms — near parity with their male counterparts.

Why exactly are women advancing so quickly as business owners? Are women better equipped to thrive in this digital age? Is today’s business climate more inviting for aspiring women entrepreneurs?

The “Man-cession” and the Fall of the Single Income Household

The growth in women-owned businesses can partly be attributed to sheer necessity. Increasingly, families must rely on a dual-income household. Following increased unemployment rates and a higher cost of living, women stepped in to supplement household income, often to compensate for an out-of-work spouse.

Men took a bigger hit in the employment market during the recession. Traditionally male-dominated industries, like construction and manufacturing, have been severely affected by the economy. On the other hand, fields traditionally dominated by women, such as healthcare and education, have added jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that women make up more than two-thirds of employees in 10 of the 15 job categories projected to grow the fastest in the coming years.

As the recession hit, job-holding women worked more hours to support their households; and more women became the family’s sole wage-earner. In 2008, employed women contributed to 45% of household earnings — the highest figure in that decade.

The Digital Age and Childcare

Entrepreneurship in the digital age lends itself to childcare, a consideration that affects any discussion of women in the workforce. Young, single, urban woman are outearning their male counterparts; however, this trend reverses as workers age and start families. And even though many companies are replacing “maternity leave” with more gender-neutral “flex time,” it’s clear that working women will always be seeking that balance of career and family.

Virtual workplaces and digitally mobile lifestyles give aspiring women entrepreneurs the flexibility to achieve that balance. Digital tools mean that women can now build a business from home and create unique work schedules.

» Read the full article at Mashable.