Calling Women Entrepreneurs: Your Country Needs You!

Businesses owned by women make a huge contribution to the economy as they provide jobs in all sectors. But is enough being done to support women entrepreneurs?

Women in business

Small firms account for the majority of businesses in the economy and jobs in local communities. And there is a drive to increase the growth of small companies to boost economic growth. In this context, it is important to encourage more women into business. The barriers to participation however include a lack of equality, fewer opportunities, access to finance, weaker networks of contacts, and restrictions because of caring duties and family commitments. Women also face difficulty when starting a business in areas such as science, technology, engineering and maths; not least because of a lack of engagement in these courses, which means women are less likely than men to enter such fields. Women entrepreneurs are similarly less visible in the construction, storage, transport and communication sectors. By way of explanation, there are systemic societal issues that need to be addressed to enable women to start more businesses in more diverse areas of the economy.

Men traditionally start new businesses at a greater rate than women but the gap is closing as firms run by women are becoming more commonplace and celebrated. The number of women-led businesses is increasing, not least because role models raise awareness and highlight the rewards of enterprise. The number of women starting businesses in the fastest growing sectors however still lags behind men, as greater support is needed to promote female entrepreneurship at all stages of the education system. Supporting women in business is vital to the development of a healthy economy, not least because half the nation’s human resource and perhaps more than half the nation’s brain-power resides in the heads of women.

More data

Employment in businesses owned by women is increasing although more data is needed to measure the impact of such companies on the wider economy. The evidence will help inform government policies, as progress is hampered by a relative lack of women in senior positions of organisations in the public and private sectors. Surveys of small businesses must capture greater samples of women owned businesses to understand their motivation and growth. Survey questions need to examine the factors that influence women when deciding whether or not to start a business. The design of government programmes must be examined too, to ensure their relevance to women as they look for early stage finance and advice. Identifying gaps in the current provision of support must also be examined to enable more women to start more new businesses in the future.

So, businesses owned by women make a huge contribution to the economy but further support is needed to address the imbalance of engagement and participation.