Investing in women is an economic imperative - Elizabeth Pirrie

2022 saw over 150,000 women in the UK start their own businesses – twice as many as 2018. This groundswell of female entrepreneurship highlights a huge economic opportunity waiting to be tapped, and compelling data shows that backing more women-led firms can accelerate growth, innovation and prosperity for all.

In the US, research by Boston Consulting Group revealed that women-founded startups generated over ten per cent higher cumulative revenue over five years. The numbers stretch higher still for minority founders. It’s clear that funding diverse, promising young companies early on has the potential to pay dividends for investors and society alike down the road.

In the UK, the British Business Bank demonstrates the astounding impact possible when women secure growth capital and networks to match their talents. Under the visionary leadership of CEO Dr Charmaine Griffiths, the bank has built a £1.6 billion institution underpinning over 100,000 small and medium enterprises across Britain.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Examples like this make one thing clear – enabling more talented female entrepreneurs to turn innovative ideas into world-changing companies is not just morally right, it’s an economic growth engine.

Barriers still remain for too many women starting out in business (Picture: still remain for too many women starting out in business (Picture:
Barriers still remain for too many women starting out in business (Picture:

Progress has been made, but barriers still remain for too many women starting out.

Groundbreaking collaboration between government, business and universities is aiming to address these challenges. Last year’s Pathways Report advocated for initiatives like establishing inclusive innovation funds to provide accessible pre-seed funding for women and underrepresented founders. It also called for VC firms and investors to adopt transparent diversity policies and funding targets to reduce the systemic capital gaps women-led startups face.

Importantly, the report highlighted launching networking and mentorship programmes focused on empowering young female founders on university campuses. These would be set up through partnerships with entrepreneurial academic departments to help develop talent pipelines.

To further put this into practice, I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to join Heriot-Watt University's new Entrepreneur-in-Residence programme. Alongside fellow Residents Conrad Chin (ex-Skyscanner Director) and Kevin Parker (Founder, KKI Associates Ltd), we aim to help students and staff to transform innovative ideas into commercial successes.

I often say I have the best job in the world, which is CEO of AccelerateHER, an organisation that assists women founders with growth and securing vital investments to scale. I aim to bring this expertise to Heriot-Watt by providing crucial knowledge and connections, as well as guiding both female and male entrepreneurs through business development.

The opportunity before us is clear. If we can come together to address systemic obstacles, drive access to funding and networks, and cultivate future generations we can unlock the full potential of women entrepreneurship.

In doing so, we empower more diverse leaders and entrepreneurs to launch innovations that tackle pressing global needs while elevating communities. This is how we catalyse change – not just through top-down policies, but also grassroots support from campuses to communities. Together, we can build an ecosystem where every founder and innovator has room to thrive.

Elizabeth Pirrie is AccelerateHER CEO and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Heriot-Watt University



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.