Although the UK is the start-up hub of Europe and attracts the most venture capital, only one in three UK entrepreneurs are female. Lu Li, CEO and Founder of Blooming Founders, stated that “questions about family, children, as well as general ability means that women have to spend a lot more energy proving themselves. These questions that women come up against are derived from pre-defined gender roles that, over the last century, are slowly being addressed. These common gender bias questions continue to delay the progression of women in business being taken seriously.
A new report by Newable and Beauhurst, titled “Female Entrepreneurs”, presents a variety of statistics, which demonstrate that while there is still a significant gender gap, steps are being taken by businesses and organisations to slowly reduce it. The East of England has seen the highest proportion of pounds invested into female-led businesses. Since 2012, the proportion of large innovation grants awarded to female-founded businesses has quadrupled to 16%. This figure is still well below the total number of high-growth companies that have a female-founder (25%). However, companies with at least one female-founder secured 777% more equity deals in 2017, compared to 2011. These statistics demonstrate that, while the time it takes for change may seem slow, the significance of those changes are quite substantial.
Less women believe that they have the skills to start and run a business. This lack of confidence is particularly notable when compared to men, who have a higher belief in their abilities. However, studies have shown that if women were to set up businesses at the same rate as men, the UK would have an additional one million entrepreneurs, helping to build not only equality but also the economy.
A recent study completed by Copenhagen Economics shows that digital skills and tools can help businesses in all industries throughout Europe develop. This is because they minimise the costs of marketing and sales, reduce the barriers to entrepreneurship and expand the reach of export markets. This study found the implementation of digital tools to be especially beneficial for female business owners. Social media is one digital tool that has been immensely useful for female business owners. It was credited with helping start and develop 58% of female-founded businesses and aiding in product development for 64% of female-founded businesses.
Facebook’s #SheMeansBusiness campaign, launched in May 2016, aims to help empower women to pursue their business ideas by providing them with access to advice, partnerships and events. It was created in response to feedback from women who wanted to start their own business but needed practical assistance in the form of workshops, skills development, advice and a network of support, in addition to more digital know-how, to help them get their businesses off the ground.
At Exemplas we’re experts in providing SMEs with the tools and advice they need in order to excel and grow as a business. We deliver a number of key public sector contracts, including Enterprise Europe Network in the East of England, Hertfordshire Growth Hub and Department for International Trade in the East of England and Yorkshire and Humber regions.
Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) helps small businesses innovate and grow internationally. Within the Network, a group of international experts are supporting business-minded women. EEN’s “Women Entrepreneurship Sector” group supports the development of women in business, particularly in relation to finding international trade partners. As part of the Innovate UK family, EEN also supports Innovate UK’s “Women in Innovation” programme which consists of funding competitions and events to encourage female-led innovation.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) in the East of England aims to provide focused support for businesses in the region. A large number of these fantastic businesses have been founded and led by women, many of which export their products and services overseas. Representing a wide variety of sectors from cybersecurity to education, some of these female-led companies are also promoted as part of DIT’s Export Champions Community, including Abtec Industries and The Cambridge Satchel Company. The Export Champions Community programme celebrates their exporting successes with a view to inspiring other like-minded entrepreneurs to do the same.
Hertfordshire Growth Hub is a central point of access for business support in the county. At the heart of an ecosystem, made up of an experienced consortium of experts, partner organisations and service providers, the Growth Hub can help women in business access professional advice, a pool of resources and a network of specialists. The Growth Hub works in collaboration with partners to drive forward initiatives such as NatWest’s £1 billion fund that has been set aside to support growth for female business owners, a pledge to see more businesses thrive. Furthermore, the Growth Hub is helping to promote and establish the “She Means Business” campaign in the county. Since its launch, the iconic campaign has already trained 30,000 women. Now, it is on track to deliver core training and business inspiration to an additional 30,000 of the UK’s female entrepreneurs by the end of 2021, through its training partnership with Enterprise Nation, developed from the shared belief that “when women do better, economies do better”.