According to The Alison Rose’s Review of Female Entrepreneurship, up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men. In an effort to analyse the issues around entrepreneurial gender equality in the UK, the Alison Rose review has put forward a set of practical solutions to help ensure that every woman with entrepreneurial spirit can achieve her full potential.
The report puts forward the challenge that although women do not lack ability or ambition, only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is female: a gender gap equivalent to ~1.1 million missing businesses. Female-led businesses are only 44% of the size of male-led businesses on average, in terms of their contribution to the economy, and male SMEs are five times more likely to scale up to £1million turnover than female SMEs.
Similarly, the report highlights that fewer UK women choose to become entrepreneurs than in best practice peer countries: Only ~6% of UK women run their own businesses, compared to ~15% of women in Canada, almost ~11% of women in the US, and over ~9% of women in Australia and the Netherlands. And at almost every stage, women are less likely to pursue entrepreneurship: Just 8.6% of all UK women surveyed said they plan to start a business in the next three years, compared to 14.3% of men.
In order to overcome the barriers faced by UK women entrepreneurs, the report outlined three significant opportunities to help more women succeed as entrepreneurs:
- Increase funding directed towards female entrepreneurs. Access to and awareness of funding was highlighted as the number one issue for female entrepreneurs across the entire entrepreneurial journey, from intention to scale-up.
- Provide greater family care support for female entrepreneurs. As with funding, the report found disproportionate primary/family care responsibilities affect female entrepreneurs throughout the entrepreneurial journey.
- Making entrepreneurship more accessible for women and increasing support locally, through relatable and accessible mentors and networks.
The report’s initial recommendations comprise eight practical steps which can be taken forward immediately by the private sector, though all would benefit from public sector support:
Initiative 1 – Promote greater transparency in UK funding allocation through a new Investing in Female Entrepreneurs Code
Initiative 2 – Launch new investment vehicles to increase funding going to female entrepreneurs
Initiative 3 – Encourage UK based institutional and private investors to further support and invest in female entrepreneurs
Initiative 4 – Review existing and create new banking products aimed at entrepreneurs with family care responsibilities
Initiative 5 – Improve access to expertise by expanding the entrepreneur and banker in residence programmes
Initiative 6 – Expand existing mentorship and networking opportunities
Initiative 7 – Accelerate development and roll-out of entrepreneurship-related courses to schools and colleges
Initiative 8 – Create an entrepreneur digital first-stop shop
In conclusion, the report found that there is no one silver bullet that will transform the landscape for female entrepreneurs overnight. Many barriers are cultural and societal, and will take many years to overcome. However, there are real and practical steps that can be taken given the importance of this matter to the UK economy.