FSB Report – Women in Enterprise: the Untapped Potential

Posted: 4th May 2016

FSBSee the full report HERE

It is right that we should focus on developing an environment which facilitates the growth of women entrepreneurs. Understanding the challenges faced by women business owners, but also identifying solutions that will increase the number of women actually setting up a new business is vital to creating a dynamic and vibrant small business community.

As the leading business organisation for small businesses and the self-employed, FSB has an important role to play in promoting the value of business ownership and being a key champion for women’s entrepreneurship. We undertook this report to enhance our understanding of women’s business ownership both within our own membership and the wider business community and to explore ways to help this community flourish.

Although the report highlights how many of the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs are similar to those facing the small business community as a whole, it shows there are still specific and persistent barriers for too many women when setting up and growing their own business. To help address this, we include a series of recommendations for the UK and devolved Governments on how to help women entrepreneurs realise their full potential. We hope these recommendations will prove useful to policymakers at the local, national and European level who seek to develop solutions to boosting women’s business ownership.

The report also highlights the role of business groups in promoting and supporting women in enterprise. In response to the findings, FSB is creating a new taskforce to support women entrepreneurs and small business owners. The Women in Enterprise Taskforce will run a series of regional events and networking opportunities, working with the existing regional women’s networks to ensure FSB fully represents all of its diverse membership.

Small firms already make a huge contribution to our economy. If we were to harness the still largely untapped potential of women entrepreneurship and provide them greater support, it could lead to more jobs being created, economic growth and a more diverse and representative small business community.

Research by the Women’s Business Council has shown that the UK economy is missing out on more than 1.2 million new enterprises due to the untapped business potential of women.1 This is despite a number of policy initiatives by the UK Government and the devolved administrations, and the business community to promote and facilitate women business leaders and enterprise.

In 2014, 20 per cent2 of single-person businesses and 18 per cent of smaller firm employers in the UK were majority-led by women.3 At the same time, self-employment in the UK is at the highest level in 40 years, with much of the recent growth among women.

This report explores the importance of women’s entrepreneurship to the UK economy and the challenges women business owners face when starting up and growing their business, including the availability of business support, access to finance and childcare. The research for this report included both focus groups and a survey of 1,919 women business owners.

This report makes a series of recommendations designed to boost women entrepreneurship across the UK and help realise the individual, societal and economic benefits of business ownership and self-employment.

• Development of a framework for women’s enterprise: The UK Government, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations could consider developing and implementing individual frameworks for boosting women’s enterprise, like the Scottish Framework and Action Plan for Women’s Enterprise. At the UK level, this framework could be based upon the work of the Women’s Business Council and bring together all Government departments and agencies in an effort to grow and support women’s enterprise.

• Improving access to finance: Awareness and take-up of alternative forms of finance is lower among majority women-led firms. Women need to be aware of the full range of finance options available to them, including alternative sources such as crowdfunding and angel investors. The Government could consider an awareness-raising campaign aimed at helping to inform women of their financing options.

• Improved data collection on business ownership: There is currently a lack of consistent and regular gender-disaggregated business ownership data. The Government could explore how to use existing business data sources to improve the scope and regularity of gender specific data on business ownership. This would help provide policymakers with a stronger evidence base on women entrepreneurship.

• Raising awareness of support: Visibility and awareness of resources, like the Business is Great website, which provides access to business support in England, is low including among women entrepreneurs. Working with local business networks and key local stakeholders, the Government could explore ways to maximise the effectiveness of these resources and raise awareness among women business owners.

• Improving diversity in procurement practices: Improved monitoring of awarding of public contracts on a gender basis to increase diversity in supply chains. Further to this, more large businesses in the UK could consider introducing supplier diversity programmes.

• Increasing the visibility of role models for women business owners: Role models have an important role to play in inspiring women and demonstrating that entrepreneurship is a viable career option. These role models must represent the diversity of the business community, including small businesses, and be relevant to a range of sectors and businesses.

• Equalising maternity pay: The current system of maternity pay disadvantages sole traders and the self-employed, who in most cases do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. The Government should explore increasing the Maternity Allowance in the first six weeks to bring it into line with Statutory Maternity Pay.

1 Women’s Business Council, Maximising women’s contribution