In June 2013, the Women’s Business Council published a set of recommendations for the government, which sought to address the missing economic potential at every stage of a woman’s life – from raising the aspirations of young girls, to maximising career development and flexible working opportunities, to ensuring more women have the opportunity to start and grow their own businesses.
Its latest research has served to highlight that equalising women’s productivity and employment to that of men’s levels has the potential for increased gross domestic product of 35 per cent in the UK. This could be equal to an additional £600bn to our economy – an amount which could clear a third of our national debt.
While on the subject of women’s missing economic potential, the world’s fastest developing economies have long recognised the need to act and in some areas are racing ahead of Europe and the US in unlocking the power of women. This marks a departure from past decades, when the advancement of women was visible almost solely in the wealthiest of countries. For example, the rate of female entrepreneurship in Latin America, India and East Asia surpasses those in the G-7 nations.
However, women have undoubtedly made significant progress here in the UK over the last few years. In fact, new data analysis has claimed that British business leaders are powering the UK’s economic growth.
Backed by the likes of Sherry Coutu, Martha Lane Fox, Joanna Shields, Anya Hindmarch, Neelie Kroes and Reid Hoffman, the analysis showed that there are 762 companies in Britain with female leadership that generate revenues of between £1m and £250m and are growing by at least 20 per cent a year.
Collectively, these businesses generated £2bn more in sales in 2015 than in 2014, and 68 per cent are based outside of London.
“Only one per cent of companies in the UK get to £1m in revenue,” explained serial entrepreneur Coutu. “If the UK is to leapfrog every other nation on this planet to become the most digital and most skilled on the planet, we urgently need to address the gender imbalance within the tech sector.”
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Many of the fastest-growing female-led businesses are management consultancies, which are expanding revenues by 88 per cent a year on average. Events services firms are growing by 42 per cent, internet business by 33 per cent and PR and communications agencies by 28 per cent.
Meanwhile, the technology sector accounts for two thirds of the companies and more than a third of these are growing 50 per cent a year.
“On a global scale, it’s cited that women entrepreneurs are poised to lead the next wave of growth in tech, and the high-tech companies women build are more capital-efficient than the norm,” said Lastminute.com co-founder Martha Lane Fox. “If the UK is to leapfrog every other nation on this planet to become the most digital, most connected, most skilled and most informed on the planet, we urgently need to address the gender imbalance within the tech sector and ensure that our leaders, investors and entrepreneurs come from the widest pool of home-grown talent.”
She further suggested that “there is so much more to be done”, citing statistics showing that women make up only 17 per cent of the technology workforce, with software engineering standing at four per cent, venture capital partners trailing with three per cent and only one per cent garnering leadership positions within the sector.
According to Coutu, the interactive map was created in order to help schools invite female entrepreneurs to speak to students. She said: “I worry about some girls not having access to women who are leading businesses. I worry about the skills gap, and girls feeling that they are not good enough to work in science, technology, engineering and maths-based jobs because they haven’t got the skills required by companies that are growing really quickly.
“I hope that this comes to be used as a tool for women to grow their companies faster. I hope that it becomes a magnet for anyone looking to do business with an innovative company.”
Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss the Real Business First Women programme:
Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit – designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.