NEW YORK - If you go to work for a newer business, there's a good chance you'll be working for a woman.

Women are starting companies at a torrid pace. Between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. rose by 68 percent, twice the growth rate for men and nearly one-and-a-half times the rate for all companies, according to an American Express analysis of Census Bureau figures. They are starting an estimated 1,288 companies each day, up from 602 in 2011-12, American Express says.

"Women are becoming more aware of the opportunities for entrepreneurship in their lives. It's becoming more of an option for a career move than it ever has been in the past," says Susan Duffy of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College.

The number of new businesses started by women and men has increased in part because of the difficult job market since the recession. But the numbers of women business owners will keep rising as interest in entrepreneurship grows and younger women look to famous women as their role models, Duffy says.

Some of those inspirations: Oprah Winfrey, designers Tory Burch and Diane Von Furstenberg and Weili Dai, co-founder of chipmaker Marvell Technology. The head of the Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet, and her predecessor, Karen Mills, have both been business owners.

"More women are seeing themselves out there ... in the business world. They're saying, this is fabulous, I want to be like her," Duffy says.

The growing number of resources for women business owners, including the SBA-sponsored Women's Business Centers, are encouraging women to start companies, according to Duffy.

But women owners tend to be more optimistic than their male counterparts, says a survey released by Bank of America. Seventy percent of the women owners surveyed expect their revenue to rise over the next year, compared to 66 percent of men.

Fifty-six percent of women plan to hire in the next year, compared to 50 percent of men. And 68 percent of women plan to expand their companies; 63 percent of men have such plans.

The survey also found women owners may face different challenges.

Twenty-nine percent said they feel they have less access to money than men, and 32 percent said they have less access to new business opportunities.