'Shocking lack of female entrepreneurs' as it emerges just a fifth of British businesses are run by a woman

Jamie Johnson
Alison Rose, who is the Chief Executive of RBS Commercial and Private Banking, will oversee the review - Simon Dawson

Just one in five British businesses is run by a woman, figures show, as today the government launches a review into the challenges that females face in starting and growing their own enterprises.

In a move inspired by the Telegraph’s Women Mean Business campaign, leading banker Alison Rose will spearhead the initiative, which will explore ways to reduce barriers to female engagement in entrepreneurship and make recommendations to decision makers in Government.

Writing in today’s Telegraph, Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, says that the paucity of female business founders is “shocking,” and that untapped female entrepreneurship “may be the greatest economic opportunity of 21st century.”

It has also emerged that of the six million businesses in Britain, only one fifth are run by women, and there are twice as many male entrepreneurs as females despite there being one million more women in the UK.

“The fact that Britain is home to so many new, innovative businesses is something to be proud of,” said Mr Jenrick. 

“But the fact that so few of them are started by women is shocking. This is not because of a lack of talent or appetite.

“Therefore, it’s vital that we identify the barriers that are hampering entrepreneurial women from securing the backing that businessmen have taken for granted.”

Mr Jenrick also asserts that Britain could be missing out on more than one million new enterprises and billions of pounds of economic activity by not addressing these issues.

The Telegraph’s Women Mean Business campaign has shone a light on the funding gap that exists between male and female entrepreneurs in the UK and called on the Government to take action.

It was launched in March after 200 British business leaders including Samantha Cameron, Mary Portas, Alexa Chung and Karren Brady, signed an open letter insisting that better access to funding for female founders would help boost the UK economy.

Since then, Theresa May has set up a Downing Street Committee to ensure all policy developed by the Government considers the impact on women and focuses on increasing their role in politics, business and society as a whole.

The new Government review will focus on examining the barriers women face when starting a business and identifying ways of harnessing this untapped talent.

Alison Rose, who is also the Chief Executive of RBS Commercial and Private Banking, said: “If we want to strengthen the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business, then no-one can be left behind.

“Unfortunately, statistics show that women make up only a third of all entrepreneurs in the UK. To better drive the UK’s economy, we need to understand, and tackle, the barriers and reasons as to why this is - more can be done to support women in enterprise.”

The Telegraph is hosting a Women Mean Business conference on October 31 with keynote speakers and panelists including Dame Helena Morrissey, Mary Portas, Claire Balding and Facebook’s Vice President in Europe, Nicola Mendelsohn. 

The event, at Hilton's Bankside hotel, will have practical workshops, debates and speeches by some of the most important and influential figures in British business. 

To find out more information and book tickets, click here.