Woman are still under-represented in the UK in terms of entrepreneurship. Although the gap between the number of male and female entrepreneurs may be closing, it still exists. This so called “Enterprise Gap”, the difference in the number of men and woman owning companies, has significantly decreased in the last decade, but there is still work to be done. There are 5.5m SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) operating in the UK today, with only 20% led by woman – that’s 1.14m in total.
The UK has seen an increase in female entrepreneurs in recent years, as well as women occupying directorial roles. In 2017, 28% of FTSE 100 directorships were occupied by women. This exceeds a target set in a 2011 governmental report that said there should be a minimum of 25% female representation on boards.
Looking at the differences across sectors of woman representation on the boards of FTSE 100 companies, there has been substantial changes in the past 10 years. In 2007, there was no women on the boards of companies in the construction sector, and only 4% in manufacturing. Both sectors or now operating at or above the government’s target of 25%, with representation of 29% and 25%.
There are now 46 companies in the FTSE 100 that have now reached 30% representation of woman in the boardroom. The trend is also being matched in the FTSE 250, in which 62 companies as of October 2017 had reached 30% representation of woman, and only 9 all-male boards remain, down from 131 in 2010.
Overall, there is a large regional variation when it comes to the percentage of woman who are directors in businesses. Wales and the North of England are the most gender-equal parts of the UK, at least in terms of having a low share of businesses with no female representation on boards and high rates of having more than one.
Not only has female directorship considerably increased, but more woman are starting their own business. There were 648,000 more businesses owned by woman in 2016 than in 2000. That’s a significant 72% increase in 16 years. During the same time, male self-employment also increased, from 2.357m businesses in 2000, to 3.221m businesses in 2016.
London and the South East are the leading hubs of female start-ups, with female entrepreneurs generating an extra 18,000 jobs in London in 2015. This meant that there was an increased economic contribution of £790m from female led start-ups in London alone. What these businesses are not necessarily doing though is growing, and the percentage of women led businesses with annual revenues in excess of £1m remains low.
The percentage of woman business owners compared to total business ownership changes drastically from country to country. Woman business ownership is not always correlated to the wealth and level of development of an economy. In the UK, 25.8% of total business owners are woman.