Britain trails in league of female start-ups

The UK is a dismal sixth in terms of the population proportion of women starting businesses and could be losing out on £1 billion a year, according to a study by NatWest and Development Economics.

Britain trails in league of female start-ups
The UK is failing to inspire enough female entrepreneurs – and the economy is paying the price, according to an international research project.

Canada: Top of the list

While Canada leads the way in the population proportion of women starting businesses – followed by the US, the Netherlands and Singapore – the study by NatWest and Development Economics found that Britain was performing poorly, missing out on an economic boost that could be worth £1 billion a year.Although the proportion of female entrepreneurs in the UK almost doubled from 3.7 per cent of the working population in 2009 to 7.1 per cent by 2012, it has since fallen back in successive years, the report said, with the proportion down to 4.7 per cent in 2015.Even so, female entrepreneurs generated £35.1 billion for the UK economy and created 77,000 jobs in 2015, according to the research. But it added that if the UK had maintained its level of female entrepreneurship growth between 2012 and 2015 – reaching levels comparable to Canada – it would have generated an additional £1.35 billion for the economy in 2015.

Women entrepreneurs are "vital"

Steve Lucas, managing director of Development Economics, said, “Women are a vital part of the UK’s enterprise economy, so it’s positive to see the rate of female start-ups has been increasing as women respond to opportunities across a wide range of business sectors.“However, the UK still lags behind the likes of the US and Canada, which have a much higher proportion of female entrepreneurs.“In these nations, the celebration of entrepreneurial qualities is something that is deeply embedded, whereas the UK has a reputation for being more risk-averse and in some cases having excessive red tape that might constrain entrepreneurship. If the UK is able to bolster its efforts to help female entrepreneurs, the opportunity for further economic growth is significant.”Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) support the report's findings. The ONS reported female-founded businesses rose every year between 2006 and 2013 – from 58,000 to 139,000 – before falling to 116,000 in 2014 and to 126,000 in 2015.

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Across the UK, London was home to by far the most women-led businesses (33,200), followed by Manchester (5,200), Birmingham (5,100) and Leeds (3,700).The NatWest research was published a week after PwC’s annual Women in Work index found that if UK businesses took action to close the gender pay gap, female earnings could be boosted by as much as £85 billion.

Female start-up rankings as proportion of population:

  1. Canada 13.5%
  2. USA 9.2%
  3. Netherlands 7.3%
  4. Singapore 7.2%
  5. Sweden 4.9%
  6. UK 4.7%
  7. Germany 3.3%
  8. Italy 2.8%
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