Posted: Wed 5th Jul 2017
As the sixth Enterprise Nation Festival of Female Entrepreneurs approaches, new research shows the number of women starting businesses in the UK has increased faster than men during the last 10 years.
According to the report by Aston University, the proportion of working age females starting a business rose 45% between 2003-6 and 2013-16 compared to 27% among men.
The research, which analysed data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, one of the biggest international enterprise studies, showed that although men are still twice as likely as women to start a business overall, the gender gap is closing in some UK regions.
Women in the South East are the most likely to take the plunge, with 7% describing themselves as early-stage entrepreneurs.
But this compares to only 2.8% of women in the North East, which along with the South West, saw the proportion of female-led startups decrease over the decade.
The West Midlands is the region with the closest gender parity with 74 new female entrepreneurs for every 100 males. In the North West, it's 33.
One reason for the regional differences, researchers said, could be higher numbers of graduates and migrant workers.
Dr Karen Bonner, senior researcher at Aston Business School, said:
"On the one hand, we could point to different societal expectations, with women still taking on the bulk of unpaid caring roles and entrepreneurship still stereotyped as a 'male' career choice in our wider culture.
"When asked why they started their business women are significantly more likely to cite 'greater flexibility for my personal and family life' and the desire for 'freedom to adapt my own approach to work' than men.
"But despite these differences, and controlling for other factors like sector, age and start-up capital, both men and women display similar levels of ambition when it comes to growing their businesses.
"We also observe a tendency for women generally to be more risk-averse which may make them self-select out of entrepreneurship, particularly in places where there are 'safer' employment options that allow them to work more flexibly around caring responsibilities.
"This would help to explain why places like Northern Ireland and the North East of England, with relatively high proportions of public sector jobs, have low start-up rates for both men and women."
The report described the UK as "the start-up capital of Europe" due to its overall (male and female) early-stage entrepreneurship rate in 2016 of 8.8%. Unitl 2010 it was 6%. Last year, the rate was 5.3% in France and 4.6% in Germany.
But entrepreneurship across Europe is still lower than in the US where 12.6% of all working age men and women are entrepreneurs.
Celebrate female enterprise at the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in Bristol on 20 October. Find out more and book your ticket below.