Thirty two per cent(201,900) of directors at UK SMEs are female, as entrepreneurship amongst women continues to grow, says Moore Stephens, the Top Ten accountancy firm.
In comparison, the percentage of women on the boards of FTSE100 companies was just 28% last year, despite campaigns such as the 30% Club which lobby for greater female representation at the top of business. Last year, 31% (187,340) of directors at UK SMEs were women.
Moore Stephens says the high percentage of female SME directors reflects the surge in the number of women starting businesses in recent years as the ‘enterprise gap’ starts to close. Recent examples of successful start-ups founded by women include:
- ASI Data Science, founded by Dr Angie Ma, is a consultancy service using artificial intelligence (AI) to solve business problems, and trains students to work in AI. Its clients include the BBC and easyJet
- Chika’s, founded by Chika Russell, is an African-inspired range of spiced nuts and plantain crisps, which is stocked in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and Holland & Barrett. It has received funding from a range of investors including United Biscuits and Virgin Money
- Settled, founded by Gemma Young, is an online property platform which has sold £250m worth of homes since 2016; it has raised over £2m in funding so far.
But, is a perceived funding bias preventing an increase in female entrepreneurship?
Although just under a third of SME directors are women, this number could be much higher says Moore Stephens. The bias amongst investors towards funding businesses that are founded by men means it can be more difficult for women to get a business off the ground.
Research shows that the proportion of funds invested in UK businesses with at least one female founder fell from 15% in 2016 to 9% last year.
Sarah Friend, Partner at Moore Stephens, says: “Over the last decade, the number of women starting businesses has accelerated rapidly and SMEs are now outperforming the biggest businesses in delivering female business leaders.
“However, more needs to be done to address the funding gap between men and women-led start-ups in order to level the playing field.
“Various solutions have been put forward to address this gap, such as increasing the number of women working for venture capital firms and raising media awareness of women entrepreneurs – both are achievable.”