When Susan Sammons Kennedy got into the insurance business, the decision was personal.
She said her family's farm business had burned down and she had lost two grandmothers and two brothers who had no life insurance. Now, she's the owner of an independent Allstate office on Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam, selling insurance, keeping others out of the same situation.
"It comes from the heart," she said.
Susan Sammons Kennedy works at her destk at her Allstate agency in the town of Amsterdam on Thursday.
The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo
She's in a minority in the local insurance demographic. Women insurers are outnumbered 4-1 by their male counterparts.
However, as the years on the calendar turn, women are becoming bigger players in the business community.
According to a report by American Express, the number of businesses in New York grew by 57.9 percent since 1997. That growth is 10th in the nation. Also, according to the report, New York has the third-most women-owned businesses in the U.S. at 622,300. In 1997, the state was second and has since switched places with Texas.
That number has been steadily growing since 1997, when the state had 394,014 women-owned businesses. That number grew to 505,077 in 2002 and 594,492 in 2997 before jumping to its 2011 numbers.
The number of equally owned firms has increased about 44 percent since 1997. According to the report, equally owned firms are defined as businesses where men and women are equal partners. There were 563,019 such businesses in New York in 1997, 634,542 in 2002, 780,692 in 2007 and now 810,900 in 2011.
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Deborah Auspelmyer said about a third of its member businesses are owned or managed by women, and that was part of the premise when the Women of Worth Committee was founded.
"The trend seems there that [the number of] women-managed businesses is growing," she said. "That is exactly why we started that committee. That's why we decided to give women professionals the opportunity to connect."
The W.O.W. committee was last active in 2009 and according to the chamber, it was brought back from its hiatus by popular demand.
The committee will have its first networking event of 2011 at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Nicolino's restaurant in Amsterdam. According to a news release from the chamber, the meeting will give each attendee the opportunity to briefly talk about the business.
Sammons Kennedy said she plans to attend the event.
"It might be [good for] networking and brainstorming and seeing what everyone else's success stories are and feeding off of that," she said.
According to the report, industries with the highest concentration of women-owned businesses are health care and social assistance (52 percent) and educational sevices (46 percent). Other services, which include beauty salons and pet-siting, dry cleaners and automobile, have 41 percent owned by women nationwide.
The lowest is construction, the report said, and finance and insurance, both at 20 percent.
However, Sammons Kennedy said women are catching up.
"I believe that we're more standing on our own and having our own independence than depending on the men doing everything," she said. "I think we may be a little more successful because we approach things differently."
Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.