For decades now, the words of a banker stuck with Jan Rispin ever since she tried to secure a loan for her Carson City pet store.
"They told me it was a man's world, they told me I couldn't get a loan being woman," said Rispin, who owns Jan's Tropics and Elegant Pooch, 1000 Corbett St. She instead took a personal loan from some friends.
Since then, the business world has become more equitable, Rispin said.
"Now it's immaterial whether you're a man or a woman," she said. "You can do anything now."
Rispin is among the growing number of women business owners in Nevada. Since 1997, Nevada has experienced the second highest growth rate for women-owned firms in the country, from 33,311 to 62,500 - a nearly 88 percent increase, according to a study released Thursday of U.S. Census data. It was commissioned by American Express Open.
Nationally, the number of women-owned firms grew by 50 percent to an estimated 8.1 million in 2011, up from 5.4 million in 1997. Georgia had the highest growth rate at nearly 98 percent while Alaska had the lowest at 8.8 percent.
Julie Weeks, a research adviser for American Express Open, said despite the above average growth for women-owned businesses, there still is a glass ceiling.
"Women-owned firms are keeping up pace, up until the $1 million revenue or 100 employees mark," Weeks said.
For example, in 1997, 2.5 percent of women-owned businesses had 10 or more employees and 1.8 percent had $1 million or more in revenues. In 2011, just 1.9 percent of women-owned firms had 10 or more employees and 1.8 percent made $1 million or more in revenues.
About twice as many men-owned businesses, meanwhile, have 10 or more employees and three times as many make $1 million or more a year, although those figures are falling.
"Indeed, over the past 14 years, the share of men-owned firms with 10 or more employees has declined, from 6.6 percent to 4.9 percent," according to the report. "Similarly, in 1997, 6.6 percent of men-owned firms had $1 million or more in revenues. That share declined to 6.3 percent in 2011."
Out of all women-owned firms, the health care and social services sector had the second-highest share at 15.7 percent while "other services" had the No. 1 spot at 16 percent.
Meanwhile, out of all women-owned firms, accommodation and food service, finance and insurance and construction made had the fewest at 2.4 percent, 2.6 percent and 3.5 percent respectively.
"Women are faltering when getting up to that higher level of growth," Weeks said. "I believe also what this analysis has shown looking at industry trends, women-owned firms are continuing to diversify."
Other findings from the study include:
• Those 8.1 million women-owned firms generate about $1.3 trillion in revenues and employ 7.7 million people.
• Since 1997, the number of U.S. businesses has increased by 34 percent. Meanwhile, the number of women-owned firms soared by 50 percent.
Pat Panages, 76, who owns the Flower Bucket, 651 S Carson St., said the world she operates in today is different than the one when she opened the business in 1981.
"I had a few times where I felt like I was looked down upon because I'm a woman, but any more people respect me just like any other person," Panages said. "There's not much of a difference between a man and woman like there might have been years back."
Panages has owned other businesses, too, and has worked in the grocery store, bail bond and restaurant businesses over the years.
"I had to support family, I had to support myself," she said. "Same thing that any fellow would go into business for."
She said she learned a lot from her father, a disabled man who ran his own grocery store.
"He had to think of way to make his own," she said. "Had to be in business for himself."
She adds, "I think in order to be successful you have to able to give it everything you've got. Just like marriage."