To further the recommendations of the report, FSB plans to launch a dedicated ‘Women in Enterprise Taskforce’ to support woman entrepreneurs and business owners.
While the report finds women-led businesses face many of the same challenges all small firms encounter - including cash flow issues (42%), and difficulty accessing finance (25%) - there appear to be issues which were more acute for women business owners.
FSB spoke to over 1900 women business owners in the UK. It found key challenges included balancing work and family life (40%), achieving credibility for the business (37%) and a lack of confidence (22%). All of these are limiting women’s ability to start, run and grow their businesses.
Helen Walbey, FSB Diversity Policy Chair, said: “Women-led smaller businesses already contribute over £75 billion to the UK economy. But less than one in five (18%) of businesses are majority run by women. If women were to set up businesses and grow them at the same rate as men, we would see a huge boost to growth and prosperity in this country. In fact, the Government estimates it could add £600 billion to the economy.
“Everyone should have the same chance to succeed in business. Understanding the importance of diversity and getting more women into business is critical for a dynamic and vibrant small business sector. That’s why we need to work out what the barriers are for women and break them down one by one.”
The most popular motivation for women starting a business was found to be confidence in their skills in their chosen sector (37%). However, a majority of women also said improving online and digital skills (55%), marketing expertise (56%) and business strategy skills (60%) would be the most useful measure to grow their business.
The report also found that a third (34%) of women business owners say they have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace. This was felt particularly in sectors that are traditionally male dominated - for example in construction where over half (54%) had experienced discrimination.
Helen Walbey added: “More needs to be done to really empower women. Vocational education is one way to grow the next generation of women entrepreneurs, but they also need long term business support to help them succeed and grow. Better advice and mentoring should be provided and Maternity Allowance for the self-employed should be brought in line with Statutory Maternity Pay.
“Small firms already make a huge contribution to our economy; if we were to harness the still largely untapped potential of women entrepreneurship, it could lead to additional jobs, economic growth and a more diverse and representative small business community.”
The FSB report calls for a cultural shift towards equality in business. The new FSB taskforce will develop a series of regional events, networking opportunities and work with existing regional networks to get to the root of the problem. FSB is a respected voice and it will look to influence Government to promote women’s entrepreneurship by gaining recognition of the issues and suggesting practical solutions.
Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice Caroline Dinenage said:
“Every woman who runs their own business should be celebrated and supported - they contribute a huge amount to our economy and are role models to future generations.
“We have a lot to be proud of - Britain is ranked one of the top three places in the world for female entrepreneurs and we have over one million female led small to medium businesses.
“But we know there is even greater potential out there, which is why we’ve given a further £1.1 million to help women improve their digital skills and launched the Meet a Mentor scheme – providing women with valuable advice and expertise when they start out.”
Notes to editor
1) Federation of Small Businesses report, ‘Women in Enterprise: The Untapped Potential’, 21 April 2016.
2) On behalf of the FSB, Verve surveyed 1,919 FSB members between 22 - 26 July 2015.
3) FSB also conducted a number of focus groups with 40 women business owners between June and August 2015.
4) Verve is a leading independent market research agency. For more info www.addverve.com
As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.
FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.