Female Entrepreneurship: Key facts
Women’s enterprise and entrepreneurship facts and statistics taken from the Prowess 2.0 website
- When the UK Government’s first national strategy for women’s enterprise was published in 2003, it was estimated that women constituted around 27% of self-employed people in the UK, and that only 12-14% of businesses were majority-owned by women (compared to 28% in the USA). By 2009 that figure had increased to 29% of the self-employed in the UK and 15% (or 700,000) of the 4.8 million enterprises in the UK were majority-led by women. (GROWE Greater Return on Women’s Enterprise. Women’s Enterprise Task Force 2009)
- Men are now twice as likely to be entrepreneurially active as women but in 2001 were two and a half times more likely to be entrepreneurially active. (Stairways to growth, Supporting the ascent of Women’s Enterprise in the UK, GEM/Prowess 2006)
- The most entrepreneurial age group for females is 35 – 44 (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, London Business School, 2006)
- 48% of female entrepreneurs own businesses in the service sector, compared with 36% of male entrepreneurs (A Strategic Framework for Women’s Enterprise, Small Business Service, 2003)
- 10% of the female population are thinking about starting up a business (Women in Business: key facts, Government Equalities Office 2008)
The economic case for women’s enterprise
- Women in the USA are twice as likely to be entrepreneurially active as women in the UK. The entrepreneurial rates for men are roughly the same in the UK as the US, any significant increase in business formation will only come from encouraging more women into business (Harding, R., ‘State of Women’s Enterprise in the UK’ Prowess, 2007)
- If the UK could achieve the same levels of female entrepreneurship as the US, Britain would gain three quarters of a million more businesses. (Gordon Brown, Advancing Enterprise Conference 2005)
- In the USA the Women’s Business Act 1988 put in place long-term infrastucture to support women’s enterprise development. Since then women’s business ownership has increased significantly.
- The growth in women’s enterprise in the USA has been aided by Federal recognition of its importance and a sustained commitment to its development over a thirty year period. Although there have been remarkable policy developments in the UK over the past five years, it will take sustained commitment to ensure an equivalent level of development in women’s enterprise within the UK. (Carter, S., & Shaw, E., ‘Women’s Business Ownership’, report to SBS/ DTI 2006)
- There are roughly 620,000 majority women owned businesses in the UK generating around £130 billion turnover. (Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Minister for Women and Equality speaking at 2nd Prowess conference)
- If women started businesses at the same rate as men, we would have 150,000 extra start-ups each year. (Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Minister for Women and Equality speaking at 2nd Prowess conference)
- Women starting up in business will tend to provide a more immediate contribution to the economy: Around one in five women come into self-employment from unemployment compared with around one in fifteen for men. ( ‘Promoting Female Entrepreneurship’ SBS/ DTI, 2005)
- A pound invested in developing women’s enterprise provides a greater return on investment than a pound invested in developing male owned enterprise. (Chief Executive of the Small Business Service, Martin Wyn Griffith, Speaking at the National Dialogue for Entrepreneurship, Washington DC, March 2005).
Motivations for starting a business
- Women were nearly five times more likely to mention family reasons for becoming self-employed than men. A fifth of females chose to work as self-employed to help combine ‘family commitments/wanted to work at home’ and employment in a flexible manner. Conversely, men were almost twice as likely to say that one of the reasons they became self-employed was to ‘make more money’ than were women. (ONS Regional Trends, Women in Business 2009).
- On average about 30 per cent of self-employed women and 8 per cent of men work at home. (ibid ONS 2009).
- A third of the female population would start a business if it wasn’t for the fear of failure (‘Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’ London Business School, 2003)
- Around 8% of women have an interest in starting and enterprise, compared with 13% of men. (ibid SBS/ DTI 2005)
- There are no significant differences between men and women in terms of their attitudes towards entrepreneurship as a career choice or as a high status activity. (Achieving the Vision, British Chambers of Commerce, 2004)
- More than half of women choose to start their business part-time, compared to just 12% of men. (Office for National Statistics 2009, Regional Trends 41)
- Established women-owned businesses are more ambitious than their male counterparts. (ibid Women’s Enterprise Task Force 2009).
Innovation and growth
- Women are nearly three times as likely to collaborate with research institutions (universities in particular) than male businesses (11.4% compared with 3.8%) (ibid British Chambers of Commerce 2004)
- Female entrepreneurs are more likely to a product of service unfamiliar to the market, to have fewer competitors, and they are more likely to be using technology in their products or services than their male counterparts. In addition they are more likely than male businesses to be offering a product or service to the market that has been developed in the last year. (ibid British Chambers of Commerce 2004)
- Across the SET (science, engineering and technology) sectors, there are 10 times as many male-owned than female-owned companies (Labour Force Survey, Quarter 4 2006, Office for National Statistics).
- Another female business owner is by far the most inspirational figure for women deciding to start a business in SET industries (‘Under the Microscope’, Prowess/ UKRC 2007).
- Women-owned businesses win less than 5% of corporate and public sector contracts. (NPCWE / Prowess ‘Procurement: Fostering Equal Access for Women’s Enterprise, 2009)
Access to finance
- There is unequivocal evidence that women-owned businesses start with lower levels of overall capitalization, lower ratios of debt finance, and are much less likely to use private equity or venture capital. The level of start-up capitalization used by women-owned businesses is, on average, only one third of that used by male-owned businesses. (ibid Carter & Shaw 2006).
- Recent evidence from the UK Survey of SME Finances reported that women were charged more than men on term loans (2.9% vs. 1.9%). No other study has found such a large difference in loan terms, and this result needs further research and explanation (ibid Carter & Shaw 2006).
- Women are more likely to be offered business loans and also more likely to turn them down. (ibid Carter & Shaw 2006).
- Fear of debt is the single largest barrier to entrepreneurship for both men and women, although women are significantly more fearful than men. (ibid GEM, London Business School 2004)
- Women in the UK are twice as likely to live in poverty as men and they have more to risk by coming off benefits. On average, benefits and tax credits comprise one fifth of women’s income and less than one tenth of men’s (Fawcett Society 2005).
- The choice of targeted female-focussed business support is important to women. The National Council of Graduate Enterprise (NCGE) reports that 98% of women chose to participate in their Women’s Flying Start Programme because it was women-only. Similarly 98% of women involved in the pioneering Enterprising Women initiative said women specific support was either important or very important to them. (Enterprising Women Evaluation and Research Report 2007).
- Women who have undergone some form of enterprise training are twice as likely to be engaged in entrepreneurial activity (GEM UK 2005).
- 70% of women-owned businesses seek advice at the start-up phase compared with 64% of all businesses (ibid SBS /DTI 2005)
- Following a sustained strategy to make its services more women-friendly, the national Business Link service increased its proportion of female clients from one-fifth to one-third, between 2003 – 2006. (Women’s Enterprise Task Force 2009 – GROWE Greater Return on Women’s Enterprise)
- Majority female owned businesses are more likely to use an accountant than majority male-owned businesses and less likely to use no external advice than majority male-owned businesses (Dr Stuart Fraser, Finance for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, 2005).
- Targeted Women’s enterprise initiatives complement and add value to mainstream business support services located nearby. The West Midlands Regional Women’s Enterprise Unit (RWEU) found that 58% of their clients in 2007 had not previously used ‘mainstream’ business support. A 2008 analysis found this figure had risen to 90% (Impact Assessment, RWEU 2008).
- Around 30% of all US businesses are majority female owned. The number of women-owned businesses continues to grow at twice the rate of all US firms, and they are increasing in economic clout.
- Between 1991 and 1996 the number of self-employed women in Canada grew by 44% (compared to 20% for men).
- In 2004, the average level of female total entrepreneurial activity (TEA) rate across the 34 GEM countries varied from 39.1% in Peru to 1.2% in Japan. (Global Report on Women and Entrepreneurship, GEM 2004)
- For the UK as a whole, women are more likely than men to be involved with a socially orientated start-up 5.8% of women compared to 4.9% of men. (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Focus on Social Entrepreneurs, GEM 2004)
- Women are more likely than men to think that social, ethical and environmental considerations in business are important. (59% compared with 48%) (A Survey of Social Enterprise Across the UK, DTi, 2005)
- The gender gap for social entrepreneurship activity is far narrower than for mainstream enterprise activity (ibid Prowess/GEM 2006)
All facts and statistics provided by http://www.prowess.org.uk/facts.htm the facts and statistics section of the newly restored archive of Prowess research and policy reports on women's enterprise in the UK, between 2002-2009. There are around 20 reports so far, and the collection is being added to as more turn up! Available here: http://www.prowess.org.uk/publications.htm
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