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Attitudes to Female Entrepreneurs differ from USA to UK

Research reveals that North America vastly outstrips the UK and other European nations in quantity of female entrepreneurs and business owners. It is estimated that women own 48% of privately owned businesses in the US, while they own only 12-17% in the UK. This difference is striking and begs the question of why this may be the case. 

The US has a longer history of state support for female business ownership. Centres for female entrepreneurship were established in America as early as 1988. These centres enabled women to sign business loans without needing co-signatures from male relatives and created the National Women’s Business Council to advise the President and Congress. Both of these measures were radical and world-leading at the time. While the British government did catch up in due course, its proportion of female entrepreneurs has never been able to match that of the US. An estimated 6% of British women run their own companies today, compared to 11% in the US – nearly double.

However, looking at the proportion of female entrepreneurs in a population is not the only metric by which to measure gender diversity. Interestingly, in other metrics the US does not emerge superior. It is not only important to consider how much of the female population start their own businesses, but also how that number compares to the rate of male entrepreneurship in a given nation. In the UK the rate of female entrepreneurship to male entrepreneurship is a sorry sight; the ratio is only 46:100. This is only marginally better in both the US and Canada where it rests at 60:100. While the States and Canada certainly boast large absolute numbers of female entrepreneurs, those numbers pale in comparison to their numbers of male entrepreneurs. It has become clear that while both America and Canada have deeply entrepreneurial cultures, neither one sufficiently supports women in particular.

Parts of Europe win the title of most supportive environment for entrepreneurial women. The ratio of female entrepreneurs to all entrepreneurs in Spain is 80:100 and in the Netherlands it reaches 90:100. This reveals that while Spain and the Netherlands may not be able to compete with America in terms of absolute numbers of entrepreneurs – or even relative portions of entrepreneurs in their populations – they can boast a different victory. While entrepreneurship remains a small pocket of their societies, those pockets are highly gender diverse.

a woman sits at a wooden desk writing in a notebook. there is an imac in front of her.
Retha Ferguson | Pexels

It has become clear that the UK is significantly behind in promoting female entrepreneurship, both in proportion of entrepreneurs in the general population (compared to the US and Canada) and in terms of gender diversity amongst entrepreneurs (compared to Spain and the Netherlands).

Within the UK there are also great geographical discrepancies as to rates of female entrepreneurship. Perhaps unsurprisingly the areas with the highest rates of female entrepreneurship are cities with high education rates, such as London and Birmingham. The most entrepreneurial region of England is the South-East, where 7% of women describe themselves as entrepreneurs. This contrasts starkly with the least entrepreneurial area of England, the North-East, where only 2.8% of women consider themselves to be entrepreneurs. 

Although it is clear that Britain has a lot of work to do to encourage female entrepreneurship, the early signs of improvement are there. The proportion of working-age women going into business rose by 45% from 2013 to 2016, and hopefully soon data will show that this trend has continued to increase in the past three years. As of 2016, 13% of British women planned to become business owners within the next year. Female entrepreneurship is growing, so hopefully soon there will be as many female CEOs as there are male ones.



Co-President of Her Campus Bristol
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