Despite the fact that women outnumber men in Britain by 900,000, only one in five businesses is female-run. Whilst women continue to rise above countless challenges to successfully start their own business, including finding childcare, funding, lack of relatable mentors, everyday sexism and imposter syndrome to name just a few, there is so much that could be done by authoritative figures and businesses to enable female entrepreneurs to smash the glass ceiling. In honour of International Women’s Day this Sunday, we at Intelligent salute the following companies that are using their platform to ensure women-led ventures don’t just survive but thrive in today’s economic climate.
Launched by the bank’s chief executive Alison Rose in March 2019, The Rose Review concluded that female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their journey, and that the advancement of female entrepreneurs is estimated to be worth £250bn to the UK economy. With this unrealised potential in everyone’s best interests, not least the owners themselves, Natwest has since committed to offering tangible support to female entrepreneurs through its initiative Back Her Business. The scheme assists women in raising money through crowdfunding, provides mentoring and hosts free events for like-minded women to meet and share their ideas.
A digital one-stop-shop for all women’s entrepreneurial needs, Prowess offers a wealth of information covering every aspect of business you could imagine. With start-up guides and tips on grant and loan applications for those just beginning their journey, to growth-focused strategies and pointers on scalability aimed at women who have been running their business for some time and are considering its next steps. Pages dedicated to student entrepreneurs, new mums and those over 50 show the sites inclusivity in assisting all female entrepreneurs, regardless of age or experience.
3. The Coven Girl Gang
It’s easy to forget that many female business owners leave the office camaraderie behind when embarking on their entrepreneurial journey, often working alone, either from home, a cafe or rented office space. Although having left to pursue their passion, loneliness can set in once the ‘my bed is my office’ joke dwindles and they begin to miss the post-weekend debriefs or lunchtime chit chat with their trusty co-workers. Founded by Sapphire Bates, The Coven Girl Gang offers female freelancers and business owners the opportunity to be a part of a community again, no matter where they’re based. Membership is budget-conscience, with three tiers offered, gaining female entrepreneurs access to constant support in the form of workshops, webinars, resources and meetups across the UK. Currently at maximum capacity with over 950 members, a place on the waiting list could secure membership next time its doors re-open.
Following in Natwest’s post-Rose review footsteps, January saw Santander initiate its largest ever programme to support women in business. The bank has pledged its commitment to the Investing in Women Code, which prompts financial services to adopt internal practices that improve the outlook for female entrepreneurs, regarding access to finance and overall support. Its Women Business Leaders programme aims to match 180 mentors and mentees across all sectors and locations. To be eligible for the scheme, businesswomen must be the owner or shareholder of a business that has been trading for at least one year and must have the potential to be scaled up.
Since 2017, Sky has been running its Women in Technology Scholars initiative, designed to support women looking to pursue a career in technology. As a male-dominated industry, the gender imbalance in technology, and STEM in general, needs to be addressed, with only 35% of higher education STEM students being women. Sky aims to do just that, providing its scholars with £25,000 and professional mentoring to develop their own technology project which focuses on social impact, sustainability or media and entertainment.
With companies big and small now lending a helping hand to female entrepreneurs across the country, we can only hope that others follow suit and ensure women receive the recognition they deserve, closing the gender gap in business once and for all.