Women owned businesses contribute £105bn to economy but some sectors still male dominated

women employee

Women are increasingly becoming the job creators and growth drivers in the UK, according to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

A new report, ‘Supporting Women’s Enterprise in the UK: The Economic Case’, shows that women owned businesses are now calculated to contribute a staggering £105bn to the UK economy, an increase of 40% since comprehensive data was last collected and analysed. This equates to women owned businesses contributing £36k Gross Value Add (GVA) for each person they employ, 6.3% of total UK GVA.

Despite the rise in female founders overall, the proportionate contribution from women owned businesses in manufacturing has declined. Worryingly, the report findings show that over the period studied (2012 – 2015) there has been a reduction in the contribution of the manufacturing sector to women owned businesses’ GVA (from 14.9% to 11%) and proportion of employment (from 8.7% to 7.1%).

This is concerning because manufacturing is a relatively high profit sector. A larger proportion of women owned businesses are in the care sector which has low profit.

The contribution women make to the UK economy is even more significant when the estimated GVA of women led businesses is included. The research shows that women led and women owned businesses are estimated to contribute £221bn representing 13.3% of total GVA.

Across UK nations, using available data, the estimates show that Wales (7.24% of GVA) and Northern Ireland (9.23% of GVA) lead the way in the contribution women owned businesses make to their economies. Northern Ireland has seen the biggest increase since 2012 with just under 4% increase in GVA.

The ‘Supporting Women’s Enterprise in the UK: The Economic Case’ report is being launched at Facebook’s Community Boost event taking place on 13 and 14 November at London’s Millbank Tower. Across the two days, attendees will be invited to join a series of free-to-enter workshops and talks designed to help boost their digital skills, expand their networks and grow their businesses both here in the UK and further afield.

Commenting on the launch of the report with Facebook, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s VP EMEA said: “The results from this FSB report shine an encouraging light on the increased contribution of women owned or led businesses to the UK economy and to employment. However it’s unacceptable that our culture is still hard-wired against women in leadership roles. Until that changes we must all find ways to get behind the women who want to step forward and lead, to give them the skills and courage to succeed. We need more women starting and growing businesses and more women sitting at the table, whether it’s pitching new business ideas or developing new products. Reports like ‘Supporting Women’s Enterprise in the UK’ are so important to celebrate what we have achieved, but also show how far we have to go to reach true equality among the small business community.

Lina Bourdon, FSB’s Women in Enterprise lead, said: “Developing and supporting women’s enterprise is proven to be critically important for economic prosperity. The Government must now address this untapped potential with a range of suitable measures, such as career advice, role models, and access to business support and finance.”

Carolyn Currie, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, which compiled the report for FSB, said: “Our research shows that women owned businesses are providing critical employment in communities across the UK and now represent 11% of total private sector employment. We must ensure that this momentum continues and we are calling for economic development organisations to step forward and provide the needs based support that these businesses need to continue growing. With dedicated resources and support, women owned businesses have the opportunity to harness the momentum already created and continue to grow their economic impact and value across all areas of the UK and all sectors.”