Women entrepreneurs show appetite for growth

Women entrepreneurs are equally or more ambitious than men when it comes to starting and scaling-up businesses, despite encountering more barriers. Many women do however shun the entrepreneur title, describing it as ‘blokey’ and ‘masculine’. These are some of the findings from a report published today by the Centre for Entrepreneurs in partnership with Barclays, which unravels how gender influences entrepreneurial ambitions and risk taking.

Women entrepreneurs are also less likely than men to display overconfidence when evaluating the track record of their business. Almost two thirds of the male entrepreneurs surveyed (62%) were more likely than women (42%) to state that their business was prospering, despite the fact that the women-led businesses studied reported higher profits in comparison.

“Shattering Stereotypes: women in entrepreneurship” is authored by the Centre for Entrepreneurs and based on Barclays’ research of over 500 C-suite executives and entrepreneurs operating businesses with annual turnover in excess of £2million. The business owners surveyed are highly growth-oriented, with upwards of 80% stating they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely interested’ in scaling their business.

The research examines the differences in how men and women think about risk and found that typical gender differences reversein this sample of successful executives and entrepreneurs. Women on average self-report as financial risk takers (87%, compared to 73% of men) while 80% of women say they see opportunities where others might see risk, compared to 67% of men. However, a high number of women say they are concerned about taking “fool-hardy” risks that may endanger the livelihood of their employees, or their own financial situation. In addition to a perceived lack of technical expertise and network reach, the reluctance to take such risks are seen by these women as a significant barrier to their business growth.

The research also finds that a large majority (69%) of women in C-suite executive roles are interested in starting their own business in the coming three years, compared to only 29% of their male counterparts. Of those interviewed, former executives-turned-entrepreneurs were found to have the most ambitious growth plans for their businesses.

Commenting on the findings, Sarah Fink, head of research of the Centre for Entrepreneurs said: “The economic empowerment of women and the rise of the entrepreneurial economy are two defining trends of our time. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to work towards controlled, profitable growth with relatively little interest in merely positioning themselves for lucrative exit. They often prefer to re-invest business profits over equity investment to scale sustainably.

With this report and the Fortuna 50 index celebrating the 50 fastest growing women-led businesses, the Centre for Entrepreneurs aims to challenge the unconscious biases that are holding back more women from starting and growing companies.”

John Winter, CEO of Barclays Corporate bank said: “Entrepreneurship brings huge value to the UK economy, driving growth, jobs, innovation and helping to foster the kind of export mentality the UK needs to succeed on a world trade stage. As women increasingly embrace entrepreneurship they are pioneering different business cultures and models of entrepreneurial growth. Our research reveals women-led businesses inject diversity at the firm-level as well, and this variation in business strategy will be beneficial to the economy as a whole.”

Corporate employee-turned-entrepreneur Shalini Khemka, founder of entrepreneur organisation E2Exchange commented: “Given so many c-suite women have the ambition, skills and confidence to start their own business, this could indicate a coming surge of experienced women entrepreneurs as they escape the boardroom to start their own ventures.”