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Female Entrepreneurs in the UK – How Things Are Changing

In honour of International Women’s Day we would like to celebrate the great strides women have made in the business world. Across the UK, successful female entrepreneurs are making headlines for the role they play in transforming their respective industry sectors. Names like Alice Hall, Brynne Hebert, or Rachel Bell are often used as examples of the transformational current that has been sweeping the business world for a while. However, the fact remains that the entrepreneurial scene is largely dominated by men. According to a Centre for Entrepreneurs report, only 19 per cent of successful serial entrepreneurs are female, despite fact that women account for over 50 per cent of the country’s population. But how exactly is the female entrepreneurial scene changing, and what can we expect in the near future?

Female Entrepreneurs: Signs of Change

The UK’s female entrepreneurship scene has changed along five main dimensions:

- Higher participation in labour market that has nevertheless not been matched by higher entrepreneurial rates.

- Entrepreneurial activity is twice as likely among men, but things have been improving in favour of female entrepreneurs since 2001. Currently, entrepreneurial activity rates are 4.7 per cent for female’s vs 9.5 per cent for males.

- Female-led businesses experience higher churn rates and the female share of business ownership has not changed significantly since the mid 1990s.

- Female entrepreneurs are more likely to be involved in management consultancy services, events organising, and PR, although the number of female-led ventures involving technology, science and engineering is on the rise.

- An increase in the number of female-led firms that make a significant contribution to the local economy. For instance, the sales volume generated by female-led mid-sized firms has increased by more than £2bn in just 12 months.

Challenges and Solutions

The key challenges affecting female entrepreneurs relate to support, funding, mentoring, training and skills development, work-life balance, and access to new markets. Over the last decade, several initiatives have been launched to address these issues. Examples of policy initiatives created to increase the relatively low numbers of female entrepreneurs across the UK include:

- The establishment of the National Association for the Promotion of Women’s Enterprise (2002)

- The Women’s Business Council (2012)

- The development of a digital and physical support access to information like the Business is Great website (2014), the Meet a Mentor Program, and the £1.6m fund support devoted assisting female entrepreneurs in rural areas.

- The creation of several women business networks offering assistance nationwide, like Enterprising Women, Prowress, and

When it comes to funding, one of the main obstacles is that the majority of investors are men, which means female entrepreneurs must pitch business ideas aimed at women to male investors. But things are changing on this front. According to a report by the UK Business Angels Association, in 2015 only 14 per cent of all business angels in the UK were female, which is a notable increase since 2008, when the figures barely amounted to 7 per cent. Improvement has also been brought about thanks to the development of an all-female-led funding and crowd-funding platform called AllBright, which combines access to funding with other types of support and organises networking events for angel investors and founders.

While the situation of British female entrepreneurs is certainly evolving, their overall potential is still untapped. An RBS study quoted in Prowress claimed that supporting female entrepreneurs could generate an additional £60b / year in revenues, increase the number of UK businesses by an extra 750,000, and add 1 million entrepreneurs to the country’s workforce. As more initiatives are created towards this end, we can expect to see a social and economic transformation driven by diverse and dynamic business communities.















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