Female-led businesses provide £3.51bn boost to UK economy

However, UK still lags behind Canada, the US and Sweden for the proportion of businesses started by women

Female entrepreneurs generated £3.51bn for the UK economy and created 77,000 jobs in 2015, according to new research from NatWest.

The study found that the proportion of women-led businesses nearly doubled from 3.7% to 7.1% between 2009 and 2012, though this had leveled off to less than 5% by 2015 and currently stands at 4.7%.

ONS data from the same period supports the findings, showing that female founded businesses rose every year between 2006 and 2013 from 58,000 to 139,000, before falling to 116,000 in 2014 and to 126,000 in 2015

However, the UK still falls behind a number of major economies when it comes to the proportion of new businesses started by women; including Canada (13.5%), the US (9.2%), the Netherlands (7.3%), Singapore (7.2%) and Sweden (4.9%).

The report estimates that if the UK had maintained its level of female entrepreneurship growth between 2012 and 2015 – reaching levels comparable to Canada – it would have seen an additional £1.35bn generated for the economy in 2015.

The research comes the week after PwC’s annual Women in Work index found that if UK businesses took action to close the gender pay gap, female earnings could be boosted by as much as £85bn.

Across the UK, London was home to by far the most women-led businesses (33,200), followed by Manchester (5,200), Birmingham (5,100) and Leeds (3,700).

Steve Lucas, managing director of Development Economics, said: “Women are a vital part of the UK’s enterprise economy, so it’s positive to see the rate of female start-ups has been increasing as women respond to opportunities across a wide range of business sectors.

“However, the UK still lags behind the likes of the US and Canada, which have a much higher proportion of female entrepreneurs.

“In these nations, the celebration of entrepreneurial qualities is something that is deeply embedded, whereas the UK has a reputation for being more risk-averse and in some cases having excessive red tape that might constrain entrepreneurship. If the UK is able to bolster its efforts to help female entrepreneurs, the opportunity for further economic growth is significant.”

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