Female entrepreneurs still face uphill struggle when starting up

Survey on International Women’s Day finds that women are more likely to start their business much later in life and have less access to funding

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Female entrepreneurs still have to overcome major obstacles compared to their male counterparts, according to the latest research from 99designs. (Here is a list of the venture capital firms catering specifically to women so we can try to fix that.)

Over 1,700 entrepreneurs from the UK, US, Europe and Australia took part in the survey, which found a stubborn funding gap and skills shortage still exists for women in business.

However, in the UK, 11% of female entrepreneurs were found to have secured $100,000 or more in funding compared to just 6% of men – this is a complete reversal of the global picture where 12% of men had raised over $100,000 and just 6% of women.

Men were much more likely to start their businesses earlier with 18% starting out between 18 and 25 compared to 12% of women, while most women (43%) started their business over 35 – compared to 33% of men.

Women were also more likely to sacrifice working hours for family, with 19% spending more than five hours a day with family versus 13% of men. As a result, 13% of men were able to commit over 12 hours per day to their business and just 7% of women.

Men and women also differed when it came to improving their skills, with 13% of women opting to take a course compared to 9% of men. 18% of men favoured books versus 13% of men.

Likewise, women were more likely to use professional mentoring – 10% globally against 8% of women. In the UK, this figure rose to 14% of women and 11% of men.

Women valued networking (23%) as the most important skill, while only 12% thought patience was an important trait. Men also ranked networking (19%) highly but believed patience (18%) was a much more valuable trait than women.

Finally, “getting out of their comfort zone” (20%) was cited as the biggest challenge when starting out, while this was only the case for 14% of men.

In PwC’s recent Women in Work index, it was estimated that closing the gender pay gap could boost female earnings by up to £85bn.

Pam Webber, chief marketing officer of 99designs, commented: “All entrepreneurs are stepping into the unknown to a degree, but the findings show that this is even more of a challenge for women. Opening yourself up to rejection or failure is hard for anyone, but female entrepreneurs find taking these risks harder.

“Despite the gender gap that our survey exposes, the encouraging news is that more and more women are taking up the entrepreneurial challenge. In the US the number of women owning their own business is up by 30% – and since 2008 in the proportion of UK small businesses run mainly by women has increased from 14% to 20%.

“The challenge from here is to identify and understand the gender biases that might affect females starting businesses, and use this to support them and their male counterparts equally.”

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