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Women overtake men in UK start-up volumes, NatWest data show

Growth in female founded businesses has outstripped that of male-led firms for the very first time.

a person in a uniform

Alison Rose/NatWest Group

A record-breaking year for gender equality in the entrepreneurial space, NatWest's annual Rose Review has revealed that women-led business growth overtook male-led business growth in the UK over the past year.

The data show that more than 140,000 companies were established by all-women teams last year, and the figure has grown by a third each year.

This marks the first time that the entrepreneurial weighting has been in favour of women. Particularly impressive is the unparalleled growth in companies created by young women aged between 16-25, which accounted for 14,000 of new businesses that emerged in the UK last year.  

“We have seen real progress since 2019,” said Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest Group and author of the Rose Review. “Getting more funding to female entrepreneurs and unlocking their untapped potential continues to be a priority across our industry. But women still don’t receive all the support they need and the pandemic risks holding back progress, so we must go further to achieve the goals of the Rose Review.”

“Data shows that more women than ever are starting new businesses and we must harness this potential,” she continued. “That means more financial institutions committing to delivering change and funding. We also need more direct support for businesses across the UK and we must propose fresh, imaginative solutions to the challenges posed by women’s caring responsibilities.”

NatWest’s Rose Review Progress Report is in its third year of publication and its initiatives have seen tens of thousands of entrepreneurs across the UK benefitting from funding, advice, mentorship, and training, leading to year-on-year growth in female-led startups.

In July 2019, following the Rose Review’s recommendations, HM Treasury launched the Investing in Women Code to encourage the adoption of best practices to benefit female business owners. This year, the Rose Review recorded a 50 per cent increase in signatories to the Code, demonstrating the growing commitment to improving access to finance for female entrepreneurs.

“We’re making the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business, and that means unleashing the entrepreneurial talents of everyone across the country,” said small business minister Paul Scully.

“This report shows women are shattering the entrepreneurial glass ceiling, which is a huge step forward in ensuring our economy and society is making best use of all our talents.”

While results were impressive, the research also showed that Covid-19 risks had hampered progress. Despite the rapid growth in female-led startups, female entrepreneurs spent twice as long on caring responsibilities during the pandemic as their male counterparts, according to the study. 

The members of the Rose Review board have announced extra measures in response to the information, including the launch of new investment and recruitment campaigns, and expanded networking and mentoring opportunities. 

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