Empowering females and closing gender gaps in the workplace is critical to enhancing economic productivity.  Across the world, women entrepreneurs are creating jobs, driving innovation, and contributing to the economies and societies in which they live.  This is especially beneficial for community development, as according to Forbes women entrepreneurs are more likely to reinvest in social programs in addition to contributing to the local economy.  As a result, promoting female entrepreneurship can have real economic and social benefits in both developing nations and the first world.

The UK Needs More Women Entrepreneurs

The UK may be able to boost its economy by over £10 billion ($13.1 billion) and add hundreds of thousands of new jobs by supporting female entrepreneurs.  There are currently more women-owned business in the UK than ever, and the country is focused on supporting this growing trend.

According to a recent study quoted in the Independent, one in ten UK women want to start their own company but do not because of a lack of support.  Confidence was one of the main barriers, and 70% of women surveyed could not point to a female role model running a business similar to the one they wished to set up.  The British Government recently set up a program to connect female business owners with mentors they can turn to for support.  According to Jo Swinson, the UK Women and Equalities Minister, the UK needs more female entrepreneurs and “[m]entoring is key to this. It helps to build confidence, develop key business skills, and provides a network of contracts for those starting out.”  

Challenges Facing Female Entrepreneurs in the UK

Millions of women in the United Kingdom want to start their own business but believe they lack the personal or business skills to do so.  As a result, women are seriously underrepresented among small business owners. Even though women make up half of the UK population, only one in five small businesses are set up by women.

The three main challenges facing prospective female entrepreneurs in the UK are confidence, skills, and access to capital.  Access to financing was an issue for more than one-third of prospective female entrepreneurs, while about 25% responded that they did not open their businesses due to a perceived lack of confidence or skill.  As a result of these perceived barriers, British men are nearly twice as likely as women to open their own businesses.

Gender equality in the traditional workplace is an issue in England and the rest of the UK as well.  The country was recently ranked as below-average in a continent-wide analysis of gender equality in the workplace, and more than half of all women working in the UK express concern that their gender will hurt their careers.  Gender inequality can have trickle-down effects on the overall economy, so many UK policymakers take this issue very seriously.  Because female entrepreneurship has helped narrow this gender gap, continuing to support women-owned businesses is good policy for economic development in the UK.

Positive Progress Towards Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in the UK

Public and private organizations have joined together to support female entrepreneurs across the UK, and these programs have generated real results.  The British Chamber of Commerce recently partnered with Facebook to launch SheMeansBusiness, an organization that provides resources and advice to women launching their own businesses.  This program is an exciting development, as this type of support is badly needed among women interested in becoming small business owners.  

By developing mentorship programs, business skills training, and special financing programs, public and private organizations can continue to support female entrepreneurship in the UK.  Doing so will empower women to participate more meaningfully in the UK’s economic future and continue to build a more prosperous society.

If you are interested in hearing a first-person perspective on how the UK can continue to develop opportunities for women-owned businesses, check out the video below.