Female-led businesses make up only 6% of UK's high growth firms

Female-led businesses make up only 6% of UK's high growth firms
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Mon 13th Mar 2023

Only 6% of the UK's high growth enterprises (HGEs) were founded by all-women or majority-women teams although firms with at least one female founder have a higher average turnover than businesses with at least one male founder.

The figures are from data, collected by Beauhurst, that was presented during a recent meeting in Downing Street of the government's High Growth Enterprise Taskforce.

High growth enterprises are defined by the OECD as:

"…enterprises with average annualised growth greater than 20% per annum, over a three year period...measured by the number of employees or by turnover. A meaningful size threshold should be set. A provisional size threshold has been suggested as 10 employees at the beginning of the growth period."

The data showed that 5.5% of HGEs in the UK have all-female founders with 0.6% majority female. In contrast, 83.8% have all male founding teams.

Scotland has the highest proportion of all-female run businesses with 12 of the total 82 HGEs in the country. In contrast, none of HGEs in the North East have all-female or majority female founders.

Despite this, the statistics showed that HGEs with at least one female founder have a higher average turnover (£125m) than those with at least one male founder (£93.7m), although they receive around 60% of the funding companies with at least one male founder receive on average.

Maria Caulfield, minister for women, said:

"Women make-up more than 50% of the UK, but only 6% of high growth enterprises were founded by all-women or majority women teams. We know women have the drive, skills and ambition to launch successful businesses and we want to tear down the barriers holding them back.

"Change occurs when everyone is pushing in the same direction. It is vital to everyone that we close the gap and boost the economy. Government and industry are working together to tackle this issue, because equality is good business."

Anne Boden, chair of the taskforce and CEO and founder of Starling Bank, added:

"There I was, a 5ft tall Welsh woman knocking on the doors of firms saying, 'I'm going to start a bank'. Who would really want to take a risk on a woman in her fifties? Who in their right mind starts a bank anyway?

"I know the challenges that women, particularly those outside the London tech bubble, face when setting up a business, as do all the women on the taskforce. We want to ensure every woman who wants to succeed as a high growth entrepreneur has a fair crack at doing so."

In 2019, the government-commissioned Rose Review said the UK economy could be boosted by £250bn if more was done to close the gender gap in British entrepreneurship.

The review's latest update showed the number of new businesses incorporated by female founders reached a record high last year, although separate figures showed less than 2p in every £1 of UK equity funding went to all-female founder businesses in 2022, which was no improvement on 2021.

Relevant female founder resources

International Women's Day webinar: Top tips from female founders

Women in Business Network Enterprise Nation group

The five steps to fundraising for female founders

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance journalist and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's news reporter and Bristol Local Leader. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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