The Female Founders Forum launched in 2016 to address a key issue: why too few women-led businesses scale to the same economic levels as those reached by male-led counterparts.
The project was founded by the entrepreneurial think tank The Entrepreneurs Network and is backed by Barclays. It researches to shine a light on the barriers that women in the UK face when it comes to growing businesses to their potential. Natural HR’s COO, Sarah Dowzell, visited the House of Lords in December 2022 for the launch of the 2022 Female Founders Report – One in a Million. In this blog, we recap the events of the day and pick out some of the key findings from the report.
The Female Founders Forum surveyed women who founded successful, high-growth businesses, which are defined as companies that have raised at least £1m of equity finance.
Speakers at the launch included Baroness Anne Jenkin, Minister for Women Maria Caulfield MP, Head of High Growth & Entrepreneurship at Barclays, Katherine Morgan, and Aria Babu, Head of Policy at The Entrepreneurs Network and Head of the Female Founders Forum.
Addressing one of the key talking points from the findings, Aria Babu said: ‘The idea that there are, in 2022, couples that aren’t splitting their chores evenly, seems alien to me. But the data shows how naïve I am.’
The ‘Chore Gap’ and Why it is Holding Back Female Entrepreneurs
In the UK, 39% of women working full-time with opposite-sex partners said they divided household chores equally. 38% said that the woman did the majority of housework. Only 9% of full-time men who work take on these responsibilities.
The UK has the most expensive childcare system of any developed country, according to Female Founders Forum. This makes the future for career-driven, aspirational women pessimistic. The childcare crisis in the UK has led to a rise in the number of women quitting their jobs. The disparity between the genders in household chores also hinders female entrepreneurs’ ability to grow their business.
Discrimination is a problem in fundraising.
The report highlights the fact that women are disadvantaged when it comes to getting financing for their businesses. 72% of female founders think it would have been much easier to secure funding if they had been male. 59% of respondents said they felt discriminated against because of their gender. This is not surprising, given that only 16% of equity financing goes to companies founded by women. The increase is 1% over the last year, but it’s still far from being enough.
Hannah Feldman, a female Founders Forum participant, described her experience. She revealed that she was “asked on more than one occasion” who was watching her kids while she attended meetings in order to attract investment for her company Kidadl. Feldman said to The Times that she could not imagine a man being asked this question.
What are the prospects for women founders and leaders?
The UK is a popular place for new businesses. London is the number one destination for venture capitalists in Europe. It is also regarded, along with New York, as the second-best location to start a business on Earth, behind only Silicon Valley.
In comparison with similar-sized economies like the USA, Switzerland, and Canada, the UK has a lower number of female entrepreneurs. In Switzerland, for example, almost half of all entrepreneurs (47%) are women, compared to only 32% in the UK. What can be done about this?
The Female Founders Forum outlined a series of recommendations both for the government and the founders. The FFF wants to see the Investing In Women Code recognized more by the government. This will encourage new signatories and share best practices.
The government should also focus on the childcare crisis. Drop-off rates among women in STEM fields, from school to senior leadership positions, must be addressed. Maria Caulfield, MP, Minister for Women, said that the government’s goal is to double the number of women entrepreneurs in the UK by 2030. This is good for women and their families as well as for UK businesses and the economy.
There are several recommendations in the report for female founders and leaders.
Reach out. Many founders interviewed said that the confidence of male entrepreneurs allows them to request more favors. Women entrepreneurs should be confident enough to ask for introductions from their network to people they want to meet.
Actively work to achieve an equal gender split for household chores. In our culture, women are automatically expected to take on more household duties. If you do not want to be a default mother, you need to take proactive steps.
Take charge of your brand. Female founders have extra media opportunities. The founders must know what they want to say about themselves and then seek out the opportunities that will best suit their brand.
Recognize Your Value. There are advantages and disadvantages of being a woman founder. According to the business context and personality of a female founder, she may have an extra insight about her employees and customers. Women are serving markets that were previously underserved with great success. FemTech, for example, is a growing sector that women created.
Sarah is a great example of a woman who has a passion for change. We are proud to have her as a member of this movement. The full Female Founders Report can be read here.