UENI CEO, Christine Telyan
2019 Andrew Hasson
British women are less entrepreneurially active than their counterparts in the United States, according to research carried out by website creation company, UENI. Ahead of Women’s Day 2020, the company polled 60,000 U.K. and U.S. businesses with the aim of capturing the differing levels of entrepreneurial opportunity across the two economies. And while it’s certainly true that British businesses started and run by women have been growing in number over the last few years, the research suggests that the U.S. is much closer to achieving gender balance.
So what does that mean in numerical terms? Well, according to UENI, 45.02 percent of U.S. businesses taking part in the survey are women-owned, compared with 32.7 percent of British businesses.
And as UENI co-founder Christine Telyan sees it, action is required to boost the number of female entrepreneurs working in Britain. “We urgently need to revisit the specific barriers female entrepreneurs face in the U.K. today,” she says.
The Significance Of Gender
As Telyan explains, the purpose of the research was to enable UENI to better understand the concerns and issues that face the entrepreneurs and business owners who make up its target client base. “Once we started researching, we became more aware of the significant role gender plays in everything from a company’s size to the industry it is based in,” she says. “We knew we wanted to bring attention to the fact that, yes, women are starting up more than ever before, but it’s really not so clear cut as that.”
In that respect, the report looks beyond the percentage of male/female-owned businesses and captures some potentially uncomfortable truths. For instance, the bigger the business, the less likely it is to have a woman at the helm. And the report also finds that female owners and entrepreneurs tend to be disproportionately concentrated in sectors such as hair and beauty. Natural and logical enough perhaps. But by extension, that particular finding suggests that women are much less well represented than they should be in, say, fast-growth sectors such as technology.
But let’s return to that disparity between the United States and Britain. There are similarities between the two economies (and their associated cultures and societies) but also significant differences. Taking that into account, why are women in the U.S. more likely to form companies?
Telyan – an American working in Britain – sees positive and negative reasons. On the plus side of the equation, she says that female entrepreneurship has been actively encouraged in the U.S.
“The U.S. for the last 30 plus years, has made supporting women business owners a matter of public policy. The Small Business Administration offers a number of resources to women to help give them access to the tools they need to launch and grow a successful business. I am not aware of such a large-scale national commitment to promoting women entrepreneurs in the U.K.,” she says.
And arguably there is a snowball effect. As more female entrepreneurs achieve success, they provide a template for others to follow. “Growing up in the US, I felt that every year there were more and more female role models to look up to,” Telyan says. “The American media does a good job of showcasing successful women, which is perhaps less so the case here. But I think Britain is making strides too. And raising a young daughter in this country, I feel there are no limits to what she can do.”
However, Telyan also points to a different kind of incentive – one that could, depending on your point of view, be construed as a negative. Put simply, women in the U.K. are better catered for in terms of employment law and employer practices.
“I suspect that traditional corporate jobs might be less flexible in the USA than in Britain, driving more women into entrepreneurship. Time off -holidays and maternity leave – is less common in the USA, and this plays into a woman’s calculation around whether to remain an employee or to start out on her own,” she says. In other words, you could argue that more American women start businesses because that’s the most obvious way to provide a balance between working and family life.
Looking ahead, Telyan sees a need for positive measures to promote female entrepreneurship in Britain. “I believe we will see the number of women in business continuing to rise in the future. But education, government policy, and even the media have their parts to play in helping women see their own potential for leadership and giving them the resources to establish successful businesses across every industry,” she says.