There's no doubt that Silicon Valley is the epicenter of entrepreneurship in the U.S. -- at least if you're a guy. But a new study says that women who are looking to build fast-growth companies might actually be better off in New York.

That's one of the findings of the Dell Women Entrepreneur Cities Index, a study from the tech company that ranks 25 cities on their ability to support high high-potential women entrepreneurs. "We're looking at the women who can break through a million [in revenues] and go on to $30 million," says Dell entrepreneur-in-residence Elizabeth Gore.

Dell started with an earlier project it had done, called Future Ready Economies, which selected 50 cities for their ability to thrive in a changing economic landscape. Those cities were already ahead of the game owing to their talent, infrastructure, and business environment. Then Dell took half of those cities and looked to see specifically which could do the best job of fostering the growth of high-potential women entrepreneurs.

The top ten are:

  1. New York
  2. Bay Area
  3. London
  4. Stockholm
  5. Singapore
  6. Toronto
  7. Washington, DC
  8. Sydney
  9. Paris
  10. Seattle

To rank the cities, Dell looked at 70 metrics, some of which were relevant to both men and women (such as safety and the cost of high-speed internet access and cell phone minutes) and some that were specific to women. The women-specific measurements included the availability of paid maternity leave, the number of venture firms in a particular city that were founded by women, the amount of media attention given to women entrepreneurs, and the presence or absence of a woman mayor during the past three terms. Then Dell grouped the metrics into five themed groups: culture, capital, tech, talent, and markets.

"Access to capital is the number one barrier to entrepreneurs, there's no doubt, " says Gore. The cities that did best on that score were, in order, New York, California's Bay Area, and London.

It's tempting to think that the Bay Area, with its wealth of startup capital, would rank first in access to capital, but since such a tiny percentage of venture capital goes to women CEOs (about four percent), the researchers made an effort to include other sources of financing as well. "Whether it's unconscious bias or maybe it just isn't a good system for women, venture capital is just not happening for women," says Gore.

Other research, by investors Female Founders Fund, has found that within the world of venture capital, women get a larger share of seed or A rounds in New York than they do in the Bay Area.

New York also scored highest on the markets indicator, which included metrics such as population and the forecasted growth rate of the city's economy.

A number of other cities also showed notable strengths. Toronto, ranked sixth overall, scored highest in culture. Gore thinks that's partly because of its right-to-work laws, which enhance a woman's ability to return to her job after she has a child.

Stockholm did best in technology, followed by Beijing and Singapore. Austin, at number four, was the only U.S. city to rank in the top ten for technology. In addition to the costs of tech, the study also considered the use of Twitter by both men and women and the ratio of men to women that use their phones for transactions.

The Bay Area ranked highest for talent, followed by Munich. Indicators in that category included the female labor participation rate and the number of top-ranked universities. 

Making improvements

The study makes it clear that different cities may need to take very different paths if they want to do a better job of creating an environment in which women entrepreneurs can thrive. But in the U.S., at least, the study led to a few overall recommendations that would help foster women's entrepreneurship.

One, of course, is to fix the fact that women get so little venture capital and external funding. Another is to take a new look at the role of bias in thwarting women entrepreneurs, and another is to use media to tell the story of successful women entrepreneurs so that they can become role models and change the perception of what is possible.

The study also calls for policies that "will have an enabling effect on women-owned businesses." Another policy recommendation is to "Encourage governments to support female entrepreneurship, including certifications that open doors, so large companies and governments can work with women-owned businesses."

Gore herself also has a specific recommendation, in line with recent findings from a report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: "Affordable childcare and eldercare," she says, "is going to be huge."