Top 5 business grants to combat the gender funding gap

We highlight the fantastic organisations that are working to narrow the funding gap for female entrepreneurs.

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Being able to access funding can have a huge influence on new business success – but it’s much more difficult for female entrepreneurs to source than male.

The most recent Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship found that only 14% of angel investors in the UK are female. Unsurprisingly, this figure is having an impact on the number of women being able to start a business.

In 2023, exclusive Startups data showed that women-led startups operating in the first five years get, on average, seven times less funding than male-owned companies.

Thankfully, a new wave of female-focused business funds are now emerging in the UK, and hoping to balance the scales. Led by experienced female entrepreneurs, they are committed to connecting more women to the right finances and providing skills to the next generation of women in business.

So if you’re a female entrepreneur that’s looking to raise capital for your startup, read on to find out about the top five women-only business funds and awards in 2024:

1. Women in Innovation Awards

Each year Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, offers at least 20 Women in Innovation Awards to female entrepreneurs across the UK as part of a government-backed funding competition.

Successful applicants are given a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support. This grant is then used to fund a year-long project to grow your firm that will begin in April 2024.

Applications usually open in August and close in October, with the winners being announced towards the end of the year.

2. HATCH support programmes

HATCH is an online and in-person UK business community that’s a great choice for those who are looking to grow or scale their existing business. In particular, Hatch Female Founders has a selection of programmes to support female founders.

These include the Hatch Accelerator Programme, which was designed to help female-led businesses grow 10x over 10 years using business coaching, mentoring, and training. Graduates can apply for up to £1,000 in funding.

Plus, if you’re in the early stages of launching, The Launchpad Programme helps you develop skills in business modelling, finance, communications, and marketing.

Alena Golden portrait
How is the gender funding gap affecting entrepreneurs?

Alena Golden, founder of Rap Fame, a mobile recording studio for rap artists said that being in a male-dominated industry can also make accessing funding more difficult.

“It was a challenge finding and being accepted onto the right accelerator, which inevitably plays a part in how you then fund the business. As a first-time female founder starting a rap-focused app, it’s not necessarily something the people making decisions can understand.”

3. Female Founders Fund

The Female Founders Fund (FFF) offers investment to transformational technology companies in the pre-seed stage (the earliest stage of startup funding) that have been founded by women.

It was first started by the experienced entrepreneur Anu Duggal in 2014, and has since helped hundreds of women across industries including B2B, finance, healthcare and consumer, to realise their business ambitions.

Over the past 8 years, the fund has also developed into a wide-spread ecosystem of resources, events and female technology leaders nationwide.

On average, the fund makes around 6-8 investments per year ranging between £400,000 to £650,000, so it’s a competitive application process. You can find out more about applying for the FFF on their website.

4. Astia

Astia is a global fund that invests in women-led, diverse businesses. The company accepts applications all year round from high-growth companies with at least one woman in a position of significant equity and influence.

Its specialist funding process, Astia Expert Sift™ is a lengthy undertaking that typically takes 4-6 weeks. However throughout the steps, which include investor and industry screening, companies also receive access to valuable connections and advice. Qualifying candidates are asked to create a profile and apply through the Astia Connect platform.

One drawback to Astia is that the firm invests in companies that are beyond the concept stage, which means it’s only suitable for more-established startups that have demonstrated traction or market validation.

How is the gender funding gap affecting entrepreneurs?

Sophie Baron, who started Mamamade in 2018, told us that raising money as a female founder was not an easy task:

“I’m so fortunate that in the end, Mamamade is backed by an amazing crew [who] are huge advocates of making the investment landscape more egalitarian – but I really did face a lot of comments and questions that I’m positive no male founder would have been asked.”

5. Abie Awards

While it might not strictly be a grant organisation, the Anita Borg Institute runs the Abie Awards, which celebrate outstanding women working in the tech industry.

The Abie Awards boast a number of different award categories including the ‘Pass it On’ awards for women in coding.

Most of these categories advertise a cash prize to the winner – plus an expenses paid trip to the awards ceremony in the US. For example, the 2022 awards programme offered prizes of up to $50,000 (£37,000).

The 2024 Abie Awards nominations will open soon. If you want to get started on your application early, have a look at the Abie website now to learn more about the process and qualifying criteria.

For more helpful advice on fundraising as a woman in business, check out our guides to: is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
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