The Women’s Organisation has supported female entrepreneurs for more than 21 years and played a key part in a report that today calls for more opportunities for women, both in the workplace and in their own entrepreneurial right.
The Rose Report, issued on International Women’s Day, has been compiled by Alison Rose, deputy chief executive of NatWest Holdings and chief executive of its commercial and private banking arm.
The Women’s Organisation was involved in consultation and putting together focus groups of women entrepreneurs to provide interviews.
Its co-founder and chief executive, Maggie O’Carroll, is a key contributor to the Government-commissioned report which claims the UK economy could be given a £250bn boost if women entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to develop new businesses on the same scale as men.
The report claims that 6% of UK women run their own businesses, compared with 15% in Canada, almost 11% in the US and more than 9% in Australia and the Netherlands.
And it reckons that if the UK only matched the level of female entrepreneurship as other nations, it could add £200bn to the national economy, which rises to £250bn – worth four years’ economic growth – if women were backed to the same extent as men.
However, despite describing the UK as the “start-up capital of Europe”, it said, female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men.
In fact, a survey of 1,500 men and women, as part of the review found that access to funding is the number one barrier, mentioned by almost twice as many women as men.
The report said: At every stage of the business journey UK women are less likely to pursue entrepreneurialism than men.
“Only half as many women as men start businesses. Male entrepreneurs are also five times more likely than women to grow their business to £1m turnover, or more.
“We asked over 1,500 men and women non-entrepreneurs to list all the reasons deterring them from starting a business.
“Access to funding is the #1 barrier, mentioned by almost twice as many women as men. Women are also twice as likely to cite caring responsibilities as a barrier than men.”
And it claims: “The financial and other risks of starting a business also deter women more than men, while one in six women believe they lack the necessary skills and knowledge.”
Ms Rose’s report estimates there are 1.1 million “missing” female-run firms and sets out eight ways of boosting the number of female entrepreneurs.
These cover areas such as increasing funding directed towards female entrepreneurs, providing greater family care support for female entrepreneurs, making entrepreneurship more accessible for women, and increasing support locally through relatable and accessible mentors and networks.
Today’s report said: “We believe these initial eight recommendations will together improve the access to funding, advice and opportunity for female entrepreneurs in practical tangible ways.
“They also provide a starting platform for the further significant and sustained action that we believe is required to ensure that every woman with entrepreneurial spirit can achieve her full potential.”
It added: “We recognise that policy change takes time and that other factors may limit capacity to commit to new interventions at present.
“We hope the Government will, nonetheless, consider seriously in its forthcoming Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment Strategy the issues identified by this review and the advances made by global peer countries working to a common framework and goals.
“There is great energy and support for the recommendations proposed here, and for other initiatives already in place or planned.
“Only through concerted and coordinated action can the UK tap the full unrealised economic potential of women as entrepreneurs.”
Ms Rose said: “The unrealised potential for the UK economy is enormous.”
Maggie O’Carroll, Chief Executive of The Women’s Organisation, said: “The economic imperative is compelling to have focused policies and investment to support female enterprise development in every corner of the UK – we must now turn this into real action.”
You can download the full report here.