Business grants for women

Are you a female entrepreneur who's looking to fund a start-up venture? These grant schemes offer cash awards and business support exclusively to women in business...

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  • Julia Watts

For female entrepreneurs who are building start-ups, access to funding remains a difficult barrier to growth.

In 2017, a report published in Venture Capital revealed that businesses with all-male teams were four times more likely to attract funding than those with even just one woman in a position of seniority – even though women-led businesses were found to be typically no less successful or valuable than those headed up by men.

Fortunately, there are a number of organisations fighting against this bias by offering grants – including cash awards, mentoring and business support packages – specifically to female entrepreneurs, aiming to give them an equal chance to succeed.

So, from UK government initiatives to global schemes run by industry giants, we’ve collated a list of prominent start-up business grants for women. Read on to find out whether one could be right for you…

What business grants are available for women?

This article covers:

Click on a scheme to be taken to its summary below, or scroll down to browse them all!


If you'd like to learn more about business grants, visit our guides to the types of small business grants available to start-ups, the places to find small business grants and our top tips for applying for a business grant.If you're not in work and struggling to fund your start-up idea, visit our guide to business grants specifically for the unemployed .


Women in Innovation Awards

Run by the government, Women in Innovation offers de minimis aid to eight innovative UK business women per year.

The scheme aims to fund new, female-led businesses and projects which will contribute to solving one of the government’s ‘Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges’: artificial intelligence and data, our ageing society, clean growth, or the future of mobility.


A £50,000 grant, plus bespoke mentoring, coaching and business support.

The funding is provided in three instalments across one year: £10,000 upfront, then £30,000 at the mid-point, followed by a further £10,000 at the end.

Winners are also required to act as a ‘role model’ for five days during this year.

Entry criteria

You must be female and a founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within your business.

Your business must:

  • Be at least one year old
  • Align with one of the four ‘Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges’, as mentioned above
  • Plan to exploit your funded activities either in, or from, the UK (in general, the UK government offers grants as a vehicle for improving UK business and the economy as a whole)
  • Be available to attend an interview panel (for the 2018 competition, interview slots will be taking place across 11 and 12 December)

Reach: UK-wide

Status: Applications for the current competition close on 3 October 2018

Learn more: Here

Women Who Tech’s Women Startup Challenge Europe

Women Who Tech runs Women Startup Challenges across the globe, and its yearly Europe competition aims to showcase (and fund!) innovative, women-led start-ups from across the continent.

Businesses which are solving problems – whether for people, businesses or our planet – are favoured in this scheme.


Up to $60,000 (£45,600) in a cash grant, along with one-on-one mentoring with business investors.

Plus, investors from Mozilla – who sit on the 2018 competition’s panel – will award $25,000 (£19,000) to the finalist who has best built privacy, transparency and accountability into their start-up (this is specific to the 2018 competition; prizes may change from year to year).

Entry criteria

Your start-up must:

  • Be a technology-based venture which is using tech to scale
  • Be an original concept or an improvement on an existing idea
  • Have already launched, or be working at prototype stage
  • Be growing fast
  • Have raised less than €2.1m (£1.9m) total
  • Have a technical founder or co-founder
  • Have a co-founder or founder who is a woman

Reach: European countries

Status: Applications for the current competition close on 7 August 2018

Learn more: Here

Global Fund for Women

The Global Fund for Women aims to support organisations – led by girls, women or trans people – which are making changes to advance gender equality and human rights in their communities.

The idea behind the fund is that local people, specifically those in historically marginalised groups such as women or trans people, know best how to tackle the issues facing their towns and cities. The fund aims to empower them to do so.


Flexible cash grants which support with operating and programme expenses, and/or grants to help with travel and event-organising.

Entry criteria

Your organisation must be:

  • Based outside the US
  • Dedicated to improving women’s equality and/or human rights
  • Governed by a group of women, girls or trans people (Global Fund for Women awards grants to groups, not individuals.)

Reach: Global (excluding the US)

Status: Open for applications all year round

Learn more: Here

Cartier Women’s Initiative

Every year, the Cartier Women’s Initiative – run by luxury French jewellery company Cartier – awards grants to 21 female entrepreneurs from across the globe; aiming to support women in developing their unique early-stage businesses.

The initiative also provides access to workshops, networking events and seminars.


$100,000 (£76,000) – plus personalised business mentoring – is awarded to seven winners, while the remaining 14 finalists receive $30,000 (£23,000).

However, all 21 candidates win one-to-one coaching and access to the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Programme.

Entry criteria

Your business must be:

  • An original concept
  • For-profit
  • Early-stage
  • Revenue-generating
  • Led by a woman who is aged 18 or over

Reach: Global

Status: Applications for the current competition close on 31 August 2018

Learn more: Here

Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

Not strictly a grant organisation, the Anita Borg Institute runs the Abie Awards and the Pass It On awards programme, both of which offer cash awards to their winners.

The Abie Awards aim to recognise outstanding women who are working in the tech industry or otherwise empowering those who are. Pass It On aims to fund women who are working in computing, or working on projects which aim to inspire more women to join the sector.


The Abie Awards boast a number of different award categories, most of which offer a cash prize to the winner – plus an expenses paid trip to the awards ceremony in the US and an opportunity to speak at it. The 2018 awards programme will offer prizes of up to $12,000 (£9,000).

The Pass It On awards programme offers prizes ranging from $500 (£380) to $1,000 (£760). The grant is intended to cover a range of causes, including funding for technical conferences, assistance with fees and materials, and funding for projects which benefit women and girls in computing.

Entry criteria

The entry criteria for the Abie awards vary depending on the award that you’re nominated for. You can check the Anita Borg website for details.

Meanwhile, entrants for Pass It On must be:

  • Women, and aged 18 or over
  • Either working in, or aspiring to work in, the computing industry

Reach: Global

Status: Applications for both awards schemes are currently closed, but keep an eye on the website to find out when they’ll open again!

Learn more: Here

More resources for female entrepreneurs

Looking for more helpful resources for women in business? Check out our list of investment houses, support groups, coworking spaces, accelerators, networks, and events specifically for female entrepreneurs in this article on support for female entrepreneurs.

Julia Watts
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