2018 may be the year of the woman, but fewer women entrepreneurs managed to land their companies on the Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing companies in America. In 2018, just 603 women-led companies made the list--a low point for female founders in the modern history of the list. In 2016, 695 women-led companies landed on the Inc. 5000. 

There may be a variety of reasons for the drop-off. Among others, the competition overall has upped its game. The median three-year revenue growth among this year's list hit 172 percent, up from 142 percent in 2017. In other words, it has become harder to make the list. That makes the female founders on this year's Inc. 5000 all the more impressive. Here are the top 10 U.S. cities for fast-growing women-led companies.

10. Washington, D.C.

In the nation's capital, doing work for the government is a natural choice for many startups. Some of the eight women-owned Inc. 5000 companies in Washington offer IT consulting, while others provide staffing and other management services. Elevate (No. 1,250), which helps nonprofits develop grant programs, took in $3.6 million in revenue in 2017.

9. Seattle

The juggernauts of Amazon and Starbucks may be owned by men, but many creative women have carved out a niche for themselves in Seattle--and nine claimed a spot on the Inc. 5000. Topping the list is TomboyX (No. 231), which makes and sells gender-neutral undergarments. It saw 2,049 percent revenuegrowth from 2014 to 2017.

8. McLean, Virginia

This Northern Virginia community, just across the Potomac from Washington, is a hot spot for government consulting firms--but that's not all. The Author Incubator (No. 275) runs a retreat for aspiring authors in a 16,000-square-foot castle. McLean is home to nine women-owned Inc. 5000 companies. (It ranks higher than Seattle because its overall three-year revenue growth rate is higher: 271 percent compared with Seattle's 143 percent.)

7. Dallas

Ten women-owned Inc. 5000 companies are based in Dallas, in industries ranging from software to human resources. Lord Green (No. 4,229), a $2.3 million sustainable-building consultancy, was also featured on Inc.'s 2018 list of best places to work, thanks to its top-tier benefits and mission-driven culture (and the seven dogs in its office).

6. San Diego

When it comes to women entrepreneurs, this Southern California hub is gaining on Silicon Valley. Eleven women-owned Inc. 5000 companies call San Diego home, including Confirm Biosciences (No. 3,336), a six-time Inc. 5000 company and 2018 Best Workplaces honoree that provides drug and alcohol testing kits. It logged $15.5 million in revenue last year.

5. San Francisco

Although its cost of living is notoriously high, San Francisco also has one of the highest average salaries for full-time working women in the U.S.: nearly $72,000, according to census data compiled by SmartAsset. Among the 11 women-owned Inc. 5000 companies in San Francisco is Apptimize (No. 156), which helps companies develop websites and apps and test them on customers.

4. Austin

Texas's capital gives a warm welcome to nonconformists--and fast-growth companies. Fourteen Inc. 5000 companies in Austin are run by women. They vary widely, from seven-time Inc. 5000 honoree Camp Gladiator (No. 1,223), a fitness boot camp, to Maggie Louise Confections (No. 287), a chocolatier that specializes in inventive gift boxes.

3. Atlanta

Georgia had the second-fastest growth rate among U.S. states in terms of the number of women-owned businesses between 2007 and 2018, according to an August 2018 report commissioned by American Express. Home to Sara Blakely's Spanx, Atlanta hosts 15 women-owned Inc. 5000 companies. Private Label Extensions (No. 278), a hair-extension wholesaler, landed on the Inc. 5000 list for the first time this year after achieving 1,776 percent three-year revenue growth.

2. Los Angeles

For further proof that the fastest-growing West Coast startups aren't all in the Bay Area: 16 of this year's women-owned Inc. 5000 companies are in Los Angeles. They include Figs (No. 21), which sells fashion-forward medical scrubs, and Real Plans (No. 91), a meal-planning app. L.A. also placed second on the list of top cities for 2018 Inc. 5000 companies overall, with 120 companies.

1. New York 

New York City, with its long history as a diverse business hub and its robust venture capital scene, is frequently cited as the best U.S. city for female founders. This year, the Big Apple is home to more Inc. 5000 companies than any other city (213); 17 of those are owned by women, including $5.6 million fitness company Y7 Studio (No. 80).

Published on: Dec 28, 2018