Britain?s banks are biased

She points to research by Warwick Business School, commissioned by the Bank of England, which found that the majority female-owned businesses pay higher margins on loans than male-owned firms (2.9 per cent against 1.9 points over base).

And the UK is not alone in its bias. The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs & Executives (FWE) found that venture capitalists in Europe are shunning investments in companies run by women; there were no more VC-backed female businesses in 2004 than there were in 2000.

“It’s infuriating,” says Barnes, the founder of Stevenage-based marketing and multimedia firm Yakkety-Yak. “My business is entirely self-funded because I’ve been knocked back by the bank so many times.”

Barnes isn’t after handouts. But she does want the government to step in. “The US government has a loan scheme for female start-ups, with preferential rates. Once they’ve paid back the initial loan, they’re offered another – for twice the amount. What a great way to encourage growth. Why can’t we have that here?”

Alistair Darling, take note.

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