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Female entrepreneurs – the facts

What's the state of female entrepreneurship in the UK?

Government statistics show that more women than ever before are opting to start their own business. The reasons and contributing factors for this are numerous, but it's changing the face of business and revolutionising the tradition stereotype of the gray-haired middle-aged male entrepreneur.

Here's some other statistics and facts on the changing role of women in business:

  • A quarter of the UK's 3.2 million self-employed workers are now women – Labour Force Survey 2003
  • 30 per cent of business owners are women – Labour Force Survey 2003
  • Female entrepreneurs now account for 6.8 per cent of the UK's working population, double the figure than in 1979 – Labour Force Survey 2003
  • The difference between male and female owned startups narrowed by 40 per cent in 2002 – Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2003
  • Four in every 100 women aged 18 to are active entrepreneurs – Global Entrepreneur Monitor 2003
  • Almost five per cent of the female population expects to start a business in the next three years – Global Entrepreneur Monitor 2003
  • More than one in five women believe there are good opportunities available for them to start a business – Global Entrepreneur Monitor 2003
  • A third of the female population would start a business if it wasn't for the fear of failure – Global Entrepreneur Monitor 2003
  • 43 per cent of enquiries to Shell Livewire, the international scheme to help young entrepreneurs, are from women – Shell Livewire 2003
  • 38 per cent of startup business owners contacting The Prince's Trust in 2002 were women – The Prince's Trust


  • Women aged 35 and 44 are more entrepreneurial, as are women with graduate qualifications and those from higher income groupings – Labour Force Survey 2003


  • The highest number of female startups are based in London, where 8.4 per cent of the female workforce are self-employed – Labour Force Survey 2003
  • Female entrepreneurs are least active in the North East – Labour Force Survey 2003


  • 54 per cent of women start a business so they can choose what hours they work, compared with only 35 per cent of men – Bank of Scotland survey 2002

Types of business

  • 25 per cent of male entrepreneurs are engaged in the construction industry, compared with just 5 per cent of females – The Small Business Service.
  • There is little difference in the percentage of men and women attracted to industries such as manufacturing and transport, retail and distribution, but female entrepreneurs are more likely than men to work in sideline businesses – The Small Business Service

Where improvements can be made

  • Men are still twice as likely to start a business as women – Global Entrepreneur Monitor 2003
  • The UK has a comparatively low level of female entrepreneurship with the rest of the world in all categories – Global Entrepreneur Monitor 2003
  • Entrepreneurial activity is highest among employed males aged 35-44 – Global Entrepreneur Monitor 2003

What the experts say:

“There are still too few women starting out and growing a business. We need to eliminate the barriers that remain, be it access to finance or to childcare or because of some other form of discrimination. If women started new businesses at the same rate as men, we would have more than 100,000 extra new businesses each year.” Patricia Hewitt, secretary for state for Trade and Industry

“It is good to see the gap between male and female entrepreneurship is narrowing.” Will Hutton, CEO The Work Foundation


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