18 November 2022

Opening doors for women entrepreneurs

By Maria Caulfield MP

What image comes to mind when you imagine a female entrepreneur? A skirt-suited woman in a City of London boardroom? Or maybe a coder in Silicon Valley? What age did you imagine them to be? What race? Where did you think they might have grown up, and where do you think they live now? For the women reading this, did you picture them looking like you?

Tomorrow is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day – when we celebrate, support and empower female business founders, and shed a light on some of the challenges they face. This year I want us all to expand our idea of who can be an entrepreneur, championing every woman and girl who dreams of owning their own business.

Only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is a woman, and in 2017, for every £1 of venture capital investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p, compared with 89p for all-male founder teams.

This Government has set itself a target to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good business sense. The Treasury-commissioned Rose Review found that breaking down the barriers for women entrepreneurs could boost the economy by £250bn.

We believe that everyone in this country should be able to achieve their goals, and we want to give them the tools and support to do that. Earlier this year we appointed an expert Taskforce which includes some of the UK’s most successful women entrepreneurs, experts who know what action is needed to create real change.

The Women-Led High-Growth Enterprise Taskforce – led by Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank – will influence high-growth investors, identify the main barriers in accessing high-growth capital, and recommend solutions so we can tackle them.

They will also collect hard evidence and data to develop a more comprehensive understanding of women-led high-growth enterprise, and share best practice across private, public and third sectors.

Anne has spoken passionately about the challenges she faced as an older female entrepreneur – even though she already had an extensive and impressive background in the banking industry. The women on the Taskforce know what it’s like to be judged on who they are and what they look like, not what they can do.

They will campaign to challenge the stereotypical image of an entrepreneur, and use their profile and credibility to encourage more girls and young women to see starting a business – especially in STEM – as a valid career option.

This work complements our package of initiatives launched on International Women’s Day, to further level up employment opportunities for women. This includes a STEM returners programme – supporting those who have been out of work after caring for children or elderly relatives back into the job market, and a pay transparency pilot to help businesses who want to go even further in attracting women to their companies. Evidence shows listing a salary range on a job advert and not asking applicants to disclose salary history provides a firm footing for women to negotiate pay on a fairer basis.

We want to open the doors to women across the country, and give them the support they need to flourish. This country is full of people with extraordinary experience and talent who we should be harnessing, not letting go. It is the right thing to do for them, for the economy, and for our country.

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Maria Caulfield MP is Minister for Women.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.