Currently 17.3% of all active UK companies are female-led. This is an improvement of 0.5% on last year, and is actually very significant because of the number of companies this represents.
This increase has come during a very challenging time, post-Covid and amid tough economic conditions. Yet despite this, we still have more women running their own companies.
This year we also focused on ethnic minority-led companies in the UK. Another new area of focus is on generational ownership.
The data captures which of the generations – including Millennials, Silent Generation and Boomers – are starting new companies across the four home nations.
- In 2022/23, active female-led companies now make up 17.3% of all UK companies. This has increased 0.5% from 16.8% in 2021/22. However, this figure remains three
and a half times smaller than the 2.7 million male-led companies.
- Accessing external capital can pose particular challenges for female-led companies, an issue addressed by the Rose Review and supported by the Investing in Women Code. Of all the active UK female-led companies, less than a quarter (23.4%) accessed external capital across the UK in 2022/23.
- Of the four nations, England (23.2%) had the lowest proportion of female-led companies accessing external capital. Scotland (23.8%) and Wales (24.8%) were also lower than Northern Ireland (27.6%).
- Across the UK, the proportion of female-led companies accessing external capital is
higher in the younger age groups (Gen Z and Millennials).
- Taking female-led and mixed-led companies together provides an overall picture of the proportion of companies in which women have an ownership stake. Nationally, this averages 33.5%, with Northern Ireland (32.5%) below this, England (33.5%) on par and Scotland (34.1%) and Wales (34.6%) above.
- The female-led share of fast growth companies in England (8.9%) was similar to that in Northern Ireland, but notably lower than that in Scotland (10.7%) and Wales (12.1%). Interestingly, while the relative position of the four nations has remained the same as last year, there has been a slight widening in the percentage gap between female-led fast growth companies in England and in Wales.
- Another indicator of companies’ ability to access external capital is the proportion of active EIS qualifying female-led companies that secured external capital. The overall share of female-led, EIS qualifying companies attracting funding is similar in England (10.8%) to the UK average (10.9%). However it’s lower in Scotland
(10.8%) and Northern Ireland (10.4%). This figure was notably higher in Wales (15.8%), perhaps due to the engagement of the Development Bank of Wales.
- The proportion of female-led, ethnic minority owned companies was highest in Northern Ireland (20.5%) followed by England (19.2%), Scotland (18.6%) and Wales (18.4%).
- Across the UK, only around 0.4% of all companies would qualify as fast-growth. Among female-led companies however, only 0.2% of all female-led companies are fast growth. This is around 50% of the national average.
Comparisons between 21/22 and 22/23
- England, Scotland and Wales all saw percentage increases in incorporated female-led companies from 21/22 to 22/23. Northern Ireland has the smallest percentage of incorporated female-led companies, yet this still fell from 18.5% to 17% in 22/23.
- The percentage of active female-led companies in the UK rose by 0.5% in 22/23. The rise is slightly bigger than the increase seen in incorporated active female led companies.
- Within England, seven out of nine regions saw an increase in percentage of active female-led companies from 21/22 – 22/23. Most percentage changes were small, ranging from -1.5% to 2.5%. Yorkshire and the Humber, the South West and the East of England have the largest percentage increases rising 2.5%, 1% and 0.62% respectively. The two regions with falls in female-led incorporations were the West Midlands and the North West at -1.3% and -0.31% respectively.
- London has the highest percentage of active female-led companies across both years and Northern Ireland remains at the bottom of the scale.
- Fast growth active female-led companies declined in 22/23 by 0.1% from 9.2% to 9.1%.
- Scotland and Wales stand out over England and Northern Ireland as having a larger percentage of fast growth active female-led companies. Wales was the only nation to see growth, Northern Ireland stayed constant whilst England and Scotland declined.
- Scotland and Wales saw the percentage of active ethnic minority female-led companies increase in 22/23 by 0.6% and 0.4% respectively. England and Northern Ireland saw percentage decreases by 0.1% and 0.5%
- Each generation sees a steady increase in the percentage of active female-led companies. This has risen on average by 2.1% per generation. The largest percentage increase was between Generation X and the Millennials at 3.35%. Growth was positive between the next generation (Millennials and Generation Z) however shrunk by 0.6% to 2.7%.
- From 21/22 to 22/23 the Boomers, Gen X and the Millennials saw percentage increases whilst Generation Z, the Silent and Null generations saw percentages decrease. Percentage changes between years were small ranging from -3.3% to 1.8%.
- In 22/23, the Boomers, Millennials and Generation Z all saw percentage increases. The Boomers recorded the highest percentage rise of 2.1% and the lowest was Generation Z at 0.6%. Finally, Generation X, and the Silent Generation saw percentage decreases in 22/23 at -0.8% and 0.12% respectively.
Investment and funding insights
- From 21/22 – 22/23 the overall number of active female-led companies that secured external capital in the UK rose 14.8%.
- England takes the lion’s share of secured funding at 90.8% and 91.8% across the two-year period.
- The difference in percentage between Scotland (4.5% and 4.7%), Wales (2.6% and 3.1%) and Northern Ireland (1.1% and 1.4%) is much smaller. Comparatively, Scotland still secures roughly four times more funding than Northern Ireland.
- All regions in England (excluding the North East) have higher percentages over both years than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, this is expected as some regions in England have higher populations than these three nations.
- In 22/23, six out of 12 regions saw percentages of funding secured increase. The changes over 21/22 -22/23 ranged from -1.7% to 1.3%. The largest positive change
was in London at 1.3% and the largest negative change was in the South East at-1.7%. The average change across all regions was 0.0% due to equal negative and
- London dominates against other regions securing 31.4% and 32.7% of total funding
over the two-year period followed by the South East at 15.3% and 13.6% respectively.
- Within EIS qualifying companies that secured funding, female-led companies are a minority and male-led companies roughly capture seven times more funding,
averaging 70% of the total funding over the two-year period.
- Wales secured considerably more external capital for Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) qualifying female-led companies at 16.1% (2021/22) and 15.8% (2022/23) respectively. This is surprising because Wales has the second smallest population in the national data set (3.1 million) yet takes the largest percentage share.
- Another unexpected result is the lack of EIS qualifying female-led companies securing external funding in England. England secured 10.5% and 10.4% over the two-year period which is close to the figures seen in Northern Ireland and Scotland despite being overwhelmingly larger in population size. The two main takeaways here are Wales secured disproportionately more external funding for EIS qualifying female-led companies and England secured disproportionately less.
- When considering the numbers of female investors across the UK, there was virtually no change in percentage between 21/22 and 22/23. However it was noticeable that overall levels of female investors are significantly higher than overall levels of female-led companies, whether incorporated or active led.
- Across the nations, the percentage of female investors has remained static from 21/22 to 22/23/ The most striking aspect of this is the disproportionate weighting towards England as home for female investors, even after taking into account the weighting of the general UK population residing in England. ONS statistics show 84.4% of the general population in the UK residing in England, yet 90.2% of UK female investors reside in England.
- In 2022/23, there were 714,000 active female-led companies in England compared to 2.47m male-led companies. This represents a female-led share of all active companies of 17.4% overall, an increase from 16.9% in 2021/22.
- Within England, the regional league table of female-led companies for 2022/23 remains very similar to that of 2021/22. London has the highest proportion of female-led companies (18.6%), while the North East has the lowest female-led share of active companies (15.6%).
- Two changes in the regional league table of female-led companies have taken place over the last year: the West Midlands has improved its position and moved above the South East, while towards the lower end of the league table, Yorkshire and Humberside has moved above the South West.
- Comparing turnover growth between female-led and male-led companies across regions suggests a consistent pattern. On average, female-led companies grew slightly faster than male-led companies across all regions, with the exception of the South West.
- However, while female-led companies accounted for 17.4% of all active companies in England in 2022/23, they accounted for only 8.9% of fast growth companies. This profile is very similar to last year (2021/22), when the female-led share of fast growth companies in England was 9%.
- Taking female-led and mixed-led companies together provides an overall picture of the proportion of companies in which women have an ownership stake. For England this amounts to around 33.5% of companies, a level above that in Northern Ireland but marginally below Scotland and Wales.
- The proportion of female-led companies accessing external capital varied widely from a high of 25.1% in London to a low of 20.5% in the West Midlands.
- While 17.4% of all active companies were female-led in England in 2022/23, this proportion increases to 19.2% among those companies which are ethnic minority female-led. This share is highest in the South West and lowest in the North West and North East.
- Across England, the percentage of active ethnic minority female-led companies varies from 19.9% in the South East to 17.5% in the North East.
- As anticipated from the general profile of female-led companies, those within the ethnic minority-led group are also slightly under-represented among those companies accessing external capital.
- Women’s engagement with enterprise is not limited solely to entirely female-led companies. Women are also involved in many family companies which involve ‘mixed leadership’. Here, the South West tops the mixed leadership league table at 21.9% while London has the lowest share of mixed leadership companies (12.0%).
- The South West tops the overall league table of female-led and mixed-led active companies, due to the high proportion of mixed-led companies. London falls to the
bottom of the league table due to its very low share of mixed-led companies.
- As in the other nations, female-led fast-growth companies remain under-represented in this economically significant group. In numerical terms, of 15,000 fast growth companies in England in 2022/23, 1,350 were female-led while 2,200 were of mixed leadership.
- If the proportion of female-led fast growth companies in England increased to match the percentages shown in Wales, it implies that there would be an extra 474 female-led, fast growth companies in England.
- Whilst the number of active female-led companies is 17.4% of all UK companies, this is significantly different for Generation Z. In England, the North East sees 19.2% of all active companies being female-led which rises to 25.5% within the West Midlands.
- This position is replicated in those companies raising capital, with female-led Generation Z companies attracting the most amount of capital (19.7%) in comparison to active female-led Millennial companies (18.9%), Generation X (14.0%), Silent (13.7%) and Boomers (12.2%).
- Another indicator of a company’s ability to access external capital is the proportion of active EIS qualifying female-led companies that secured funds. Across England, there is a marked variation from 13.6% in the North West to only 7.8% in the East Midlands.
- Scotland has the second highest proportion of fast-growth female-led companies across the UK after Wales (12.1%).
- For 2022/23, there were 228,477 active companies in Scotland of which 36,210 (15.8%) were female-led. This is among the lowest of the UK nations.
- In Scotland, we find that 19.2% of younger female-led companies (Millennials and Generation Z) secure external capital compared to 14.2% for Generation X and 12% for Baby Boomers.
- For 2022/23, female-led active companies in Scotland grew turnover on average by 19.9%, compared to 18.6% for male-led companies.
- There was a modest increase in the proportion of incorporated female-led companies in Scotland, from 19.16% in 2021/22 to 19.4% in 2022/23. This increase accounted for 4.2% of all UK female-led incorporations and just under 1% of all UK incorporations.
- In 2022/23, 25% of active, female-led companies in Scotland accessed external capital. While this share is higher than the UK average, it equates to only 3.9% of all companies in Scotland.
- New incorporation rates were better among females with a slight improvement between 2021/22 and 2022/23. This is consistent across UK regions and means that for every one female-led company, there are four male-led companies in Scotland. For every three female incorporations in Scotland in 2022/23, there were 10 male incorporations. This translates to a 5% growth in female-led companies compared to a 1.5% growth in male-led companies.
- While female-led growth rates are higher, with these rates it would take around 40 years to approach gender parity in the stock of active companies.
- Women’s engagement with enterprise is not limited to female-led companies. Women are also involved in the ownership of family companies which involve ‘mixed leadership’. In Scotland, 18.3% of all companies are mixed-led compared to the UK average of 16.3%. This is a slight decrease from 2021/22, where the proportion for Scotland was 18.4%.
- The proportion of female-led companies securing external capital out of all companies in Scotland was 3.9%. This is higher than the East Midlands (3.67%), similar to Yorkshire (3.81%) and below both London (4.81%) and the South West (4.16%). Scotland was also behind the overall UK (4.14%), the rest of the UK (4.16%) and England (4.16%).
- In 2022/23, 10.75% of all active EIS qualifying companies in Scotland were female-led. Scotland has a higher proportion than the East Midlands (7.80%), North East (8.18%), South West (9.39%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (9.68%) but a lower percentage than Wales (15.83%), the UK overall (10.98%), the rest of the UK (10.99%) and England (10.89%).
- For 2022/23, female-led active companies in Scotland grew turnover on average by 19.9%, compared to 18.6% for male-led companies. Female-led turnover growth in Scotland had a higher rate than in the South West (19.4%) but was below the overall UK average of 22.08%. The best-performing regions were London (29.1%), the North East (24.5%) and Wales (24.1%).
- A total of 34.6% of active companies in Wales in 2022/23 involved women in ownership (either solely or in a mixed-gender team). This is a higher proportion than in any of the other UK nations.
- In 2022/23, female-led active companies in Wales grew turnover on average by 24.1% compared to 20% for male-led companies. Female-led turnover growth in Wales was the third highest across all UK nations and regions, and above the rest of the UK average of 21.9%.
- In 2022/23, there were 22,900 active female-led companies in Wales, which equates to 16.7% of active companies and is slightly improved from 16.5% in 2021/22.
- The rate of female-led companies in Wales is higher than in Scotland and N. Ireland but lower than in England, especially in London and the South East.
- Women are involved in the ownership and leadership of other companies in Wales. In 2022/23 a further 17.9% of active companies in Wales were a mixture of male and female-led. This proportion is lower than in Scotland and N Ireland but above that in England.
- 1% of fast-growth companies in Wales in 2022-23 were female-led. This is the highest rate across all UK devolved nations and regions. The rate of female-led fast-growth companies in Wales has improved from 11.9% in 2021-22.
- Of the female-led companies obtaining external finance, the highest number was in the Gen X age group, followed by Millennials. These were the highest numbers for these groups across the UK.
- Although numbers of business angel investors in Wales remain small in comparison to the rest of the UK, the proportion who are women (28.7%) is higher than in the other UK nations.
- 18.4% of ethnic minority-owned active companies in Wales in 2022-23 were female-led. This proportion in Wales is lower than in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland although above that in the East Midlands, North East, and Yorkshire and the Humber.
- 3% of all active ethnic minority female-led companies in Wales secured external capital. This proportion is below that in England and Scotland but above Northern Ireland.
- 8% of all active female-led EIS qualifying companies in Wales secured external finance, significantly above the rest of the UK.
- In 2022-23, 13.7% of Silent Generation-led companies were female-led. This compares to Boomers (13.3%), Gen X (16.3%), Millennials (19.1%) and Gen Z female-led companies (20.8%).
- Compared to the rest of the UK, in Wales there are slightly higher proportions of female-led companies in all generations except for the youngest two, Millennials and Gen Zs.
- Wales has the equal highest proportion of female-led Silent Generation companies alongside London, and the second highest proportion of female-led Boomer Generation companies below London.
- Companies led by Millennials in Wales have the highest average turnover growth rate of 41.1%. Turnover growth rates in Wales of companies led by other generations are much lower – Gen X (23.6%), Gen Z (17.8%), Boomers (14.6%), and Silent Generation (13.7%).
- There has been a significant improvement in the number of female-led companies in Northern Ireland that have secured external capital, up by 49% in 2022/23. This is the highest of all regions in the last 12 months.
- Comparing turnover (sales) growth between female-led and male-led companies across regions suggests a consistent pattern. On average, female-led companies grew slightly faster than male-led companies across all regions with the exception of the South West.
- Although Northern Ireland witnessed an increase in the share of fast-growth companies from 0.17% of all firms in 2021/22 to 0.42% in 2022/23, only 8.9% of female-led and mixed-gender-led companies were fast growth over the period. This compares to 9.1% in the UK overall, 10.7% in Scotland and 12.1% in Wales. The figure represents a deterioration in the share of female-led companies achieving fast growth compared to 2021/22 (8.9% in 2022-23 compared to 9.8% in 2021/22).
- In 2022-23, despite female-led and mixed-gender-led companies in Northern Ireland being less likely to experience fast growth (compared to all other UK regions) the proportion of female-led companies accessing external capital in 2022/23 was the highest rate in Northern Ireland (27.6%) compared to a UK average of 23.4%.
- The share of female-led Enterprise Investment Scheme qualifying companies that secured external capital in Northern Ireland (10.4%) was slightly below the UK average (10.9%). This proportion is notably below that in Wales at 15.8%, where the Development Bank of Wales has been particularly active.
- On examining generational ownership, we find that Millennial-led companies are the most likely to secure external capital (18.0%) followed by Generation Z companies (16.7%), Generation X (12.8%), Silent (10.0%) and Boomer (10.0%).
- It’s estimated that 8.3% of all companies in Northern Ireland are ethnic minority-led. This is the lowest share of ethnic minority-led companies across the UK nations and regions, with a UK average of 33.3%, (a high of 52.3% in London) and the next lowest proportion at 17.4% in the South West of England.
- Although Northern Ireland has substantially fewer ethnic minority-led companies, of the population of ethnic minority-led companies, those led by females are more likely than in the wider population (at 20.5% compared to a population share of 13.6%). In addition, this proportion is similar to that across the UK, which ranges from 17.5% in the North East to 20.5% in Northern Ireland.
- Companies led by ethnic minority women, although accounting for 20.5% of all ethnic minority-led companies, were less likely to receive external capital at 14.3%. This is below the UK average of 16.8% and the comparative rates for Scotland (16.9%) and Wales (16.3%).