At Hatch we are proud to champion female entrepreneurship, so this International Women’s Day we wanted to take the opportunity to explore why we are so passionate about our work in this area, and why we think everyone else should be passionate about it too.
Thanks to our decade of experience in this area we have had a privileged insight into the entrepreneurial journey of thousands of female business owners, and access to an extensive and active community of women in the startup sphere.
Exploring the case for championing female entrepreneurship does unfortunately mean delving into the structural inequality that exists in the UK, and the barriers that have led women to be underrepresented in this space for so long.
However, it also means taking a closer look at the inspiring passion, innovation, and drive of female founders who have already made their mark, as well as the committed support network that already exists to open up more opportunities and change the state of entrepreneurship for good.
The State of Entrepreneurship in the UK
Only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female. This represents a gender gap equivalent to around 1.1 million missing businesses and up to £250 billion that could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men.
Looking across the entrepreneurial journey, UK women are less likely than men to go from intention to starting a business and half as likely to scale their businesses, and fewer women in the UK choose to become entrepreneurs than in best practice peer countries: the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
This matters for a whole host of reasons. Entrepreneurship has the power to positively impact individual lives, sectors, and communities, and everyone deserves equal access to that power.
More than this though, if we are only seeing people with the same experiences become entrepreneurs, then there is going to be a big skew to the types of businesses that are created and the types of communities that are served.
What are the Barriers?
There are a whole host of systemic barriers that make it more difficult for women to thrive in the entrepreneurship sphere, with added layers of difficulty for women of colour, disabled women, LGBTQ+ women, women who are not British nationals, young women, and women facing other forms of marginalisation.
Funding is a key factor to consider, with some industry estimates put venture funding to all female-led businesses at around 6%. Only 54% of applications from women-owned small and medium sized enterprises in 2020 were successful versus 73% from men.
Going hand in hand with this is limited access to advantageous professional networks, and a lack of confidence that comes from limited role models and representation of female entrepreneurs.
Societal prejudice and discrimination also plays a part, with 39% of female founders reporting frequently encountering sexism whilst running their start-up.
One of the most significant barriers that women face is limited access to affordable childcare. Women are twice as likely than men to mention family responsibilities as a barrier and rates of entrepreneurialism fall sharply for women after the age of 35 compared to men.
Entrepreneurship can be incredibly well suited to parents with childcare responsibilities due to the flexibility to set your own agenda and your own time table, but narratives around a ‘hustle culture’ can put people off, and set unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a successful founder.
Challenging this narrative is going to be a crucial step in encouraging more women to consider starting their own business.
Hatch's Support for Female Founders
It is our mission to build a better world through entrepreneurship and the support that we provide enables underrepresented entrepreneurs to access the opportunities, resources, and networks needed for them and their business to thrive.
Last year 80% of the founders that went through our cohort programmes were female or from a marginalised gender.
On these programmes founders can access bespoke training, expert mentoring, grant funding opportunities, specialist masterclasses, pitching competitions, networking events, and more, all alongside a supportive cohort of like-minded peers.
We know the impact that this can have on a founder and their business, and are proud to have been able to provide this to thousands of women over the last decade.
We also know the value of celebrating and uplifting the women in our community, and are passionate about using our platform to champion female founders in every way we can.
Progress in Female Entrepreneurship
Progress may be slow, but it is happening. Last year women in the UK established over 150,000 new companies, which is more than twice as many as in 2018.
Similarly all-female-led companies represented 20% of all businesses in the UK in 2022, up from 16% in 2018.
Just taking a look at the NatWest WISE100 list of the top women in social enterprise and the #ialso 100 list from the f:entrepreneur campaign, it is clear to see that female entrepreneurship in the UK is going from strength to strength, with women launching and growing thriving businesses in spite of the current barriers they face.
As women continue to thrive, they create a larger pool of female mentors and advisors who are able to share their experiences with early-stage founders.
The more visible female founders we see, the more that antiquated images of what it means to be an entrepreneur can be challenged, and women can see themselves represented in the roles they aspire to.
So What Now?
Until we have an equal playing field for all entrepreneurs in the UK, it remains important to specifically champion female entrepreneurship and provide the additional opportunities and support needed to combat this imbalance.
You can support Hatch in our mission to build a better world through donating funds, volunteering your expertise as a mentor, or putting us forward as your workplace’s chosen charity.
You can support female founders directly through shopping with female-led brands, using your platform to promote female founders, and directing anyone who would benefit from support to our website.
Together we can build a fairer society where women have equal access to the power of entrepreneurship.
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