Women owned businesses contribute a staggering £105bn to UK economy but some sectors remain elusive

Press Releases 13 Nov 2018

Women owned businesses contribute a staggering £105bn to UK economy, but female entrepreneurialism in manufacturing and other high growth sectors remains more elusive

  • New research published by FSB, launched at Facebook Community Boost, reveals an estimated 40% increase in UK economic contribution and a 26% increase in employment generated by women owned businesses.
  • A quarter of private sector employment (23.85%) is now calculated to be generated by women owned and women led businesses.
  • Diversity in manufacturing and higher growth sectors is still a challenge, with a reduction in the proportion of women owned firms in these sectors.

Women are increasingly becoming the job creators and growth drivers in the UK, according to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

A new report, ‘Supporting Women’s Enterprise in the UK: The Economic Case’, shows that women owned businesses are now calculated to contribute a staggering £105bn to the UK economy, an increase of 40% since comprehensive data was last collected and analysed. This equates to women owned businesses contributing £36k Gross Value Add (GVA) for each person they employ, 6.3% of total UK GVA.

Despite the rise in female founders overall, the proportionate contribution from women owned businesses in manufacturing has declined. Worryingly, the report findings show that over the period studied (2012 – 2015) there has been a reduction in the contribution of the manufacturing sector to women owned businesses’ GVA (from 14.9% to 11%) and proportion of employment (from 8.7% to 7.1%).

This is concerning because manufacturing is a relatively high profit sector. A larger proportion of women owned businesses are in the care sector which has low profit.

The contribution women make to the UK economy is even more significant when the estimated GVA of women led businesses is included. The research shows that women led and women owned businesses are estimated to contribute £221bn representing 13.3% of total GVA.  

Across UK nations, using available data, the estimates show that Wales (7.24% of GVA) and Northern Ireland (9.23% of GVA) lead the way in the contribution women owned businesses make to their economies. Northern Ireland has seen the biggest increase since 2012 with just under 4% increase in GVA.

The ‘Supporting Women’s Enterprise in the UK: The Economic Case’ report is being launched at Facebook’s Community Boost event taking place on 13 and 14 November at London’s Millbank Tower. Across the two days, attendees will be invited to join a series of free-to-enter workshops and talks designed to help boost their digital skills, expand their networks and grow their businesses both here in the UK and further afield.

Commenting on the launch of the report with Facebook, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s VP EMEA said: “We all have a role to play in addressing the diversity imbalances that exist around the world. It’s unacceptable that our culture is still hard-wired against women in leadership roles. Until that changes we need to find ways to get behind the women who want to step forward and lead, to give them the skills and courage to succeed. Through our #SheMeansBusiness programme, which empowers thousands of entrepreneurial women by offering them training, tools and practical advice, we discovered that one of the main barriers holding women back is a lack of confidence and digital skills. Together with the Federation of Small Businesses, Enterprise Nation and AllBright, we’ve already trained 13,000 women in the UK this year, providing them with the tools, networks and know-how to start a business and to grow it. We have big ambitions for 2019 and I can’t stress enough how important it is to work together to achieve change.”

Lina BourdonFSB’s Women in Enterprise lead, said: “Developing and supporting women’s enterprise is proven to be critically important for economic prosperity. The Government must now address this untapped potential with a range of suitable measures, such as career advice, role models, and access to business support and finance.”

Carolyn CurrieCEO of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, which compiled the report for FSB, said: “Our research shows that women owned businesses are providing critical employment in communities across the UK and now represent 11% of total private sector employment. We must ensure that this momentum continues and we are calling for economic development organisations to step forward and provide the needs based support that these businesses need to continue growing. With dedicated resources and support, women owned businesses have the opportunity to harness the momentum already created and continue to grow their economic impact and value across all areas of the UK and all sectors.”


Notes to editor


  1. Read the report 
  2. The report was authored by Women’s Enterprise Scotland and staff from the University of Portsmouth and the University of South Wales, which drew on an analysis of the most recent available data (2015) by staff from the University of Portsmouth.

N.B. for media accreditation to the Women-led Businesses in the UK keynote from Louise Stewart, director of communications and Ruby Peacock, deputy head of public affairs at FSB, taking place at 1540 on Tuesday 13 November, please contact Emily Westcott: 020 7367 6025/0754 007 1836 [email protected]

About FSB
As the UK’s 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 FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at fsb.org.uk.

About Women’s Enterprise Scotland
Women’s Enterprise Scotland is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company which works to create an entrepreneurial environment where women-led businesses can flourish. Alongside their partners, Women’s Enterprise Scotland aims to create a commercial culture where women-led business ownership is not simply an aspiration, but becomes a truly attainable, attractive and achievable option for women everywhere.

About Facebook Community Boost
For more information about Facebook Community Boost, or to sign up to attend, visit: https://www.facebook.com/business/m/communityboostuk/london

About #SheMeansBusiness
Facebook’s #SheMeansBusiness programme, launched in May 2016, aims to help empower women to pursue their great business ideas by giving them access to advice, partnerships and events. Delivered in collaboration with Enterprise Nation, The Federation of Small Businesses and AllBright, more than 13,000 women in the UK have been trained via the programme to date and over 50,000 women globally will have been trained by the end of 2018.

For more information about #SheMeansBusiness, visit: https://shemeansbusiness.fb.com/uk/

Media contacts:
Kerry Curtis, FSB Brand Public Relations Manager
[email protected]
020 7592 8120/07815 537 657

Anna Phillips, FSB
[email protected]
020 7592 8113/07967 344 075

N.B. for media accreditation to the Women-led Businesses in the UK keynote from Louise Stewart, director of communications and Ruby Peacock, deputy head of public affairs at FSB, taking place at 1540 on Tuesday 13 November, please contact Emily Westcott: 020 7367 6025/0754 007 1836 [email protected]