As well as bringing discussions of equality and women’s rights to the fore the world over, this year’s International Women’s Day probably reminded many female entrepreneurs about the importance of getting more women into business.
While things are certainly progressing forward, research from the Women’s Business Council has shown the UK economy is missing out on over £1.2m of start-up businesses, due to the untapped business potential of women.
So what factors might be stopping more women from stepping into the business world to set up the company of their dreams, and what more could be done to help tap into this potential new business?
Access to finance
Having better access to finance is a key reason why many women aren’t choosing to set up businesses, which is highlighted in a report put together by the Federation of Small businesses (FSB). The Women in Enterprise: The Untapped Potential report explores the importance of women’s entrepreneurship to UK economy and the different challenges women face when setting up a new business. The report says that women aren’t aware of the full range of financial solutions available to them, such as crowdfunding, with awareness and take-up being low among women-led businesses. It says more should be done to make this clear. Knowing key information like this and the legal side of business is important when choosing to set up a start-up. If you want to know more about your options, the FSB Legal Hub online information service provides legal advice and other useful information that can help.
Awareness of support
Better support is another area which needs work to encourage more women to set up a business. Currently, the UK government provides an online resource to help give women access to things like training and the opportunity to develop their skills. However, the Women in Enterprise report states awareness of these resources is low. The UK government should therefore do more to maximise the effectiveness of available resources. This could include raising awareness by working with local business networks and authorities to show women where they can get support that addresses their needs.
Guidance from mentors
Within the areas of support is the importance of women having access to female mentors. Mentors are important to help grow business skills and provide guidance to business owners. They are also key to helping people build their self-confidence. Women having a lack of confidence is a key issue highlighted in FSB’s report. Research in the report shows that many female business owners experienced a confidence crises or fear of failure when setting up their business. Giving women access to others who have successfully set up their own business could help overcome this issue.
Inspiration from role models
Role models are also important in inspiring women to step into the business world. The FSB report states that female role models understand the skills needed for women to succeed in business. They are important in demonstrating entrepreneurship as a career option to women and encouraging them to explore new business opportunities. It states that while there are good support networks that aim to provide role models, such as the WES European Network to Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship, membership of such networks are typically business women that many others can’t relate to. In the case of WES, they are national government reps of institutions across over 30 European countries. The report shows that women instead want to see role models who are people like them, from across a diverse range of small businesses.
Providing role models from successful local businesses could be just another way to inspire more women to find the entrepreneur in them, set up a start-up, and confidently tap into their business potential.