The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship was commissioned by the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick MP. Alison Rose is Deputy CEO of NatWest and her findings uncover a shocking lack of investment in women led businesses. This results in a massive loss of earnings to the UK economy, as well as the individuals involved.

The whole report demonstrates the depressing lack of financial support and investment at every stage of business development for women entrepreneurs. Rose also reveals that, despite this huge disadvantage, women are as successful as men in sustaining an established business. Of the businesses participating in her in depth study, 73% are at least three and a half years old (that’s those run by men and women). Successful business resilience is not a problem for women run businesses.

What are the figures for female entrepreneurship in the UK?

The figures from the Rose report are quite stark and really speak for themselves.

UK entrepreneurship

  • Only one third of UK entrepreneurs are women
  • Women run businesses are 44% of the size of those run by men, in reference to their contribution to the overall economy
  • SMEs run by men are five times more likely to scale up to £1m turnover than those run by women
  • Male entrepreneurship is growing: 2013 – 9.2%, 2017 – 12.2%
  • Female entrepreneurship is in decline: 2003-2013 – steady growth to 5.8%, 2017 – 5.6%

UK economy

  • The report calculated that, if women’s businesses matched men’s at the start-up and scaling stages, the UK economy would gain £250billion in “new value”.

What is the international picture of female entrepreneurship?

The study sensibly looked outward at other countries’ experiences of women entrepreneurs and discovered that the UK is behind at an international level.

These are the percentages of women that run their own businesses in comparative countries:

  • UK – 6%
  • Canada – 15%
  • USA – 11%
  • Australia – 9%
  • The Netherlands – 9%

Ratios of female to male entrepreneurs:

  • UK: 0.46
  • Netherlands: 0.9
  • Spain: 0.8
  • Australia, Canada, Greece, Sweden, USA: all 0.6 or more

The UK’s ratio means that for every 10 male entrepreneurs, there are less than five women.

Who is making the investment decisions?

The report found that:

  • Only 1% of all venture funding is put into all female businesses
  • Less than 4% of deals are made with all female teams
  • Female led businesses start up with 53% less capital than male counterparts
  • Women are less likely to risk debt
  • Female business owners are less likely to know about the full range of available funding options

So, the question of who is making investment decisions is a crucial one and the Rose investigation did not shy away from investigating it. They found that 48% of all investment teams have no women members and only 13% of senior leaders in UK investment teams are women. As the report says: “This is a complex issue, but not one that we should skirt as it is frequently mentioned by female entrepreneurs who feel they are judged to be less competent than their male peers.”

How reliable are the report’s findings?

The report’s findings are based on in-depth research which takes a whole country approach. It is not totally London-centric, with towns and cities from across all four UK countries surveyed. Their starting point was analysing existing evidence in more than 50 reports already written about the subject. The report also looked at the international picture of women entrepreneurship in otherwise comparative countries. They then involved business leaders, support bodies, academics, investors and entrepreneurs in more than 200 workshops and in-depth interviews. Their survey reached 3,500 non entrepreneurs, 500 male entrepreneurs and 1,100 female entrepreneurs. As part of the evaluation process, they invited interested parties to roundtable discussions in order to come to effective conclusions.

What are the conclusions of the Rose Report?

The report sets up eight key steps to reach these three crucial goals, in order to improve the establishment and growth of female run businesses in the UK.

  1. “Increase funding directed towards female entrepreneurs.
  2. Provide greater family care support for female entrepreneurs.
  3. Making entrepreneurship more accessible for women and increasing support locally, through relatable and accessible mentors and networks.”

It will largely be up to investors and the government to drive the change necessary for the UK to benefit from the £200billion extra it could be getting from women’s further entrepreneurial success. This kind of change in the business world will level the playing field for the future, not just be a talking point for International Women’s Day.

What about R&D Tax Relief for female entrepreneurs?

We know that one of the key missing financial elements to 10% of UK business is R&D tax relief. Whatever sized company you run, if you meet the criteria for innovation, you are entitled to claim substantial tax relief for your research and development costs. The average claim we get for our clients is £49,000. Imagine what you could do with that extra investment in your limited company.

Our available statistics don’t look at the gender of the company’s founder, but the fact that 90% of companies are missing out means that we can only assume that 90% of female run businesses are too. Although it would be interesting to know if more women business owners than men successfully claim this tax relief.

If you are a female entrepreneur, you can see that it’s worth investigating your eligibility for R&D Tax Credits, no matter where else you are looking for investment. Bear in mind that you can still be eligible if your R&D project is unsuccessful and if your company is making a loss. Give us a quick call on 0330 200 3500 there’s nothing to lose and future investment in your business to gain.


Jamie Smith