Girl power sees female-led firms in Scotland hit record high

A record number of new businesses were started by women in Scotland last year, but there are concerns that the impact of the pandemic threatens to hold back further progress.

Latest figures show that 5,951 companies were established by women in Scotland, more than double the figure recorded in 2018 when NatWest chief executive Alison Rose was appointed to lead an independent review of female entrepreneurship

The latest report from the Rose Review also shows that across the UK, female founded businesses outstripped growth in male led firms for the first time.

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However, research shows that the impact of Covid-19 now risks holding back further progress. It suggests that despite the rapid growth in female led start-ups, women have spent twice as long on caring responsibilities during the pandemic as their male counterparts and that their businesses have been less likely to recover.

NatWest CEO Alison Rose says much progress has been made to help more women into business, but has warned the pandemic may hold back future female entrepreneurs.
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In response, extra measures are being announced to boost support for female entrepreneurs including the expansion of schemes to provide networking and mentoring opportunities.

Rose said although there has been “real progress” in the last three years, women still don’t receive all the support they need.

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“Data shows that more women than ever are starting new businesses and we must harness this potential. That means more financial institutions committing to delivering change and funding,” she said.

“We also need more direct support for businesses across the UK and we must propose fresh, imaginative solutions to the challenges posed by women’s caring responsibilities.”

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The new measures include a recruitment campaign to encourage more organisations to sign up to the Investing in Women Code, a commitment by financial services firms to improving access to tools, resources and finance. More than 130 institutions with an investing power of nearly £1 trillion have already signed up to support the code.

A nationwide “Women Backing Women” campaign is also being launched to support women to become business angels to give female founders across the UK better chance to access early-stage investment.

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Gillian Fleming, co-founder and CEO of Mint Ventures, a women-led business angel investment club and network in Scotland, said: “We welcome the beginning of a sea change with more women starting their own businesses. We need to make angel investing more accessible to more women by providing plain English training in a safe space where they can further develop their investment capabilities.”

In 2019, the UK Treasury commissioned Rose to lead the independent review of female entrepreneurship. The Rose Review originally highlighted that if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men, up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy.

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UK small business minister Paul Scully MP said it was important to “unleash the entrepreneurial talents of everyone across the country”.

“This report shows women are shattering the entrepreneurial glass ceiling, which is a huge step forward in ensuring our economy and society is making best use of all our talents,” he said.

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Across the UK there were 145,200 all-female-led businesses launched in 2021, up from 56,200 in 2018. This represents an average year on year growth of 37 per cent.

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