The UK is the start-up capital of Europe yet only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female. A report commissioned by NatWest and HM Treasury reveals what it is holding women back, and how to overcome these issues. Rachel Middleton, NatWest Business Growth Enabler in Yorkshire, outlines the report and looks at how women in business can be better supported.

The Treasury commissioned Alison Rose, CEO of Commercial and Private Banking at Natwest,  to lead an independent review into female entrepreneurship.  She looked into the barriers facing female entrepreneurs, and outlined a number of recommendations to improve female start-up and scale-up rates. Implementing the recommendations could contribute an additional £250 billion to the UK economy.

The review found five key barriers leading to lower rates of entrepreneurship amongst women.

The biggest barriers are:

  1. Low access and awareness of capital
  2. Greater risk awareness
  3. Perceived missing skills & experience
  4. Disproportionate primary care responsibilities
  5. Lack of relatable sponsorship/mentorship/role models

3 main areas of opportunities were highlighted to improve the situation, and 8 recommendations identified in response.

 1: Increase funding for female entrepreneurs
  •  Work with UK’s largest private equity funds to encourage investment in female entrepreneurs.
  • Increase transparency of funding allocation through a new Female Entrepreneur’s Investment Code that commits financial institutions to gender diversity.
 2: Provide greater family care support for female entrepreneurs
  • Review existing, and create new banking products aimed at entrepreneurs with family care responsibilities.
3: Expand awareness and access to support, including mentorship and networking opportunities offered by existing and new networks
  • Expand existing mentorship and networking opportunities.
  • Accelerate the development and roll-out of entrepreneurship course.
NatWest is exploring a number of additional initiatives with UK based partners:
  • Set up an “established entrepreneur advisory board” to drive investment and support to female entrepreneurs.
  • Create a first-stop shop digital platform.
  • Improve access to expertise by expanding the entrepreneur and banker in residence programme.

As a bank we are always looking at ways we can improve our support for customers. Our Women in Business programme was launched in 2003. There are currently more than 500 accredited Women in Business specialists working across the UK.

We have recently signed the Investing In Women Code which has been backed by the Government. The code is a commitment to support female entrepreneurship in the UK, by improving women’s access to the advice, resources and finance needed to build a business.

Additionally, we have launched a crowdfunding programme, in partnership with Crowdfunder, aimed specifically at supporting businesses led by women. Back Her Business will allow women to prepare their ideas for new businesses and get them ready for crowdfunding.

In summary, backing female entrepreneurs helps everyone. It helps women, of course, but it helps our economy, the start-up and business ecosystem, and, ultimately the wider consumer. For too long, women have been put off from starting a business by a number of factors – we want to make this a thing of the past.

Rachel Middleton is the Business Growth Enabler for Natwest, supporting SME’s in Leeds, Bradford & Wakefield to succeed & grow, providing banking, finance & free workshops.