Press releases

Better support for women entrepreneurs could provide £100bn boost to UK economy

20 April 2016

  • 5.7% of working-age women were engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity in 2014, compared to more than 10% of working-age men;
  • Longevity rates of women’s businesses lower than those set up by men, resulting in fewer businesses run by women achieving scale;
  • Report calls for a Women’s Enterprise Academy to provide development opportunities for the most ambitious and talented women entrepreneurs.

Targeted help for early stage women entrepreneurs could provide a £100bn boost to the UK economy over the next ten years, according to a new report by professional services firm Deloitte. Currently, fewer than 6% of working-age women are engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity, compared to more than 10% of men. Increasing female participation in the sector to 10% would take the overall economic contribution of women-led SMEs to more than £180bn by 2025.

The report, which was compiled for the Women’s Business Council, draws on findings from research and interviews with more than 20 successful female entrepreneurs from across the UK. It seeks to establish the common barriers which prevent women from setting up and succeeding with their businesses and makes recommendations as to what could be done to promote greater success.

Denis Woulfe, co-author of the report and Vice Chair at Deloitte said:

“Despite a substantial increase in the number of start-ups in the UK over the past five years, the proportion of working-age women engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity has fallen over the same time period. The longevity rates for businesses led by women have also been lower. While there are many fantastic examples of women-led start-ups, these statistics show that much of the potential remains untapped.

“One of the barriers we identified to women setting up their own business was limited access to relevant role models, quality mentors and professional networks. These are vital for anyone looking to set up their first business. We need a more focussed and connected programme of initiatives, involving a systematic approach to supporting women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses.”

The report makes two recommendations:

  • It calls for a Women’s Enterprise Academy to be created which would provide development opportunities for the most ambitious and talented female entrepreneurs, helping them to scale their businesses more effectively and achieve their true potential.
  • It also calls on the Government and the Women’s Business Council to support a new digital platform providing women entrepreneurs with better access to relevant role models, support groups, business mentors and a wider network of assistance.

Woulfe added: “We believe the Academy could become the centre of a support system for women entrepreneurs, modelling the position of Tech City UK with digital businesses. It will be important that support is drawn from across government, business and education to provide the expertise and experience on which entrepreneurs can draw.”

Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, founder of Genius Foods Ltd and one of the entrepreneurs interviewed for the report, said:

“The Women's Enterprise Academy is perfectly poised to become a national umbrella organisation for women to tap into. It will be a hugely valuable online and physical resource for women to develop a supportive network with kindred spirits, mentors and role models, to air ideas and learn from real experience. It will form an ideal centre for a range of business courses, relevant to the entrepreneur in the start-up phase and beyond. It could also provide introductions to high quality potential board members and seed investors. Collectively these services would transform the experience of enterprising women in the challenging start-up phase, giving their businesses a greater chance of long-term success. I wholeheartedly welcome this proposal and look forward to contributing to the Women’s Enterprise Academy in the future.”

Emily Bendell, founder of lingerie company Bluebella, was also interviewed for the report. She added:

“There have indeed been inherent challenges in scaling a female focused business like Bluebella, so I would welcome any initiative to better practically support women entrepreneurs.”

Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice Caroline Dinenage said:

“We must all work together to break down the barriers that prevent women from starting up a business and making it grow. The Government is supporting business-women by sponsoring mentoring roadshows and offering bespoke training, as well as providing start-up loans to help women achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.

“This report by Deloitte shines a light on the challenges faced by women in business and I’m grateful for their insight.”


Notes to editors

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Saskia Graepel
Deloitte LLP
+44 (0) 20 7007 7264

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