Findings from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) reveal that only 16 per cent of the UK’s 4.7 million enterprises are majority women-led.
This is painfully below US levels of female entrepreneurship. If Britain could only match American quotas, there would be 900,000 more women-owned businesses in the UK.
The government has made small moves to get the ball rolling. It introduced a £25m fund to help women business enterprises last year, but this money will be practically useless without better business networks for women and a stronger approach from British female entrepreneurs.
Schemes, such as the Women President’s Organization (WPO) and ATHENA Powerlink in the US, provide female entrepreneurs with peer advisory groups, one-to-one business mentoring relationships and strong networking opportunities to accelerate their business growth.
WEConnect – a government-backed initiative in the UK that connects women with multinational corporations – is based on another such scheme from the US, The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
Women business owners in the US take a far bolder approach to securing new business contracts. They are not afraid to "knock on the door" of new opportunities and chase the contracts required to achieve business stability and growth. In order to see the same scale in female-led businesses over here, we have to learn from our US sisters. The time is now.
Caroline Roberts is executive director of WEConnect, the diversity initiative spearheading the connection of women-owned businesses to multinational corporations.