Only one in five businesses in the UK is run by a woman, according to official figures even though women outnumber men in Britain by around 900,000.
Last September, the British Government announced it was launching a review into the barriers to women in business. The Rose review, spearheaded by NatWest chief executive of commercial and private banking, Alison Rose, revealed that the advancement of female entrepreneurs could be worth £250bn to the UK economy.
So why are so many women discouraged from starting companies? We explore the main challenges these women face, and speak to some of the country’s most successful female leaders about how they overcame them.
Last year, the Telegraph, alongside 200 British business leaders including Samantha Cameron, Mary Portas and Karren Brady, submitted an open letter to the Government, highlighting the chronic and unfair finance gap faced by female entrepreneurs.
Just 9pc of the funding funnelled into UK start-ups goes to women-run businesses, according to the Entrepreneurs Network. Women also tend to start businesses with much less available capital than male entrepreneurs.
New research from insurer AXA found that 63pc of men start their business straight out of a full-time job compared with just 38pc of women, who are often working part-time or coming out of a career break. This puts them at a major disadvantage.
Sarah Gallacher, founder of Cocoa Cabana chocolatiers, struggled to secure capital for her chocolate maker, even though she is a serial entrepreneur with a proven track record.
Gallacher says: “I was refused finance despite the fact I’m running a very successful business.” However, she refused to give up, and recently raised £80,000 of private investment and £50,000 of asset finance.
Her message to other female entrepreneurs is not to lose faith. She says: “Financing business isn’t easy but it’s entirely possible if you have a good idea, good planning and projections, and the determination to get yourself out there and find what you need to get your idea off the ground.”
Growth company backer Hambro Perks has worked hard to increase its investments in female founders to help redress the balance.
Kate Burns, venture partner at the growth investor, says: “At 30pc, our female founder ratio is above the UK average, but it is a goal of ours to improve the balance even more. Reaching parity will take time, but I’m encouraged that now there is more support, advice and funding for females.
“We are constantly searching for female investors,” she says. “Currently only around two in 10 investors are female. We know from working closely with our female founders that having women investors, advisers and board members makes a huge difference in the level of empathy and advice they are given.”