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08 March 2019

Why FSB is backing #BalanceforBetter this International Women's Day

Women entrepreneurs make a huge contribution to the UK economy, with women owned and women led businesses adding 221bn GVA. As Diversity Chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, this International Women’s Day, I’m excited to celebrate the fantastic women entrepreneurs in our membership. From the brewers, to the engineers, to the pharmacologists – women are proving themselves in whichever industry they choose.   

Last year we commissioned some new research, Supporting Women’s Enterprise in the UK, and we found that women owned businesses contribute £105bn GVA to the UK economy. Even more importantly there was a significant growth in the economic contribution of 40 per cent from 2012 to 2015.

It is not just about economic growth, it is also about jobs and employment in businesses owned by, or led by, women. An estimated 23.85 per cent of all private sector employment in the UK is now in these businesses.

For me it is important to celebrate this contribution. But we also need to recognise that there is still more to be done. The research found that women were still less likely to run or own a business in high growth sectors such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and worryingly the proportionate contribution from women owned businesses in manufacturing has declined.


We know that fewer women than men start up a business. I want that to change. So, what can be done?

I don’t want any girl or any woman to think that a certain career is not for her or for other women. Stepping into a traditionally male dominated career can be extremely daunting – and that’s without looking at business ownership. Until we get more women and girls into employment in those sectors we will not see the increase in business ownership.

We need to be inspiring women and girls to think about alternative sectors – and celebrating positive female role models within these sectors, as FSB called for in our 2016 Women in Enterprise report.

Women are also less likely than men to already know someone who owns and runs a business, but 83 per cent of women who have started their own business, knew someone else who had done the same. We need to see and learn from women at all stages of their business journey. All women business owners have a story to tell – today if you are a women entrepreneur I want you to share even just a bit of your Journey with someone.

Small firms already make a huge contribution to our economy. If we were to harness the still largely untapped potential of women entrepreneurship and provide them greater support, it could lead to more jobs being created, economic growth and a more diverse and representative small business community.

That is why FSB is backing #BalanceforBetter we want to see more women striking out on their own to create a more representative business community.

Lina Bourdon is Chair of FSB's Diversity Taksforce