Female of the species more ambitious than the male

Female entrepreneurs are now more confident than their male counterparts about their companies' prospects...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Some interesting news to mark Women’ Enterprise Day on Wednesday: female entrepreneurs are now the most confident about their ability to flourish in the current climate. A survey by NatWest and support services provider Everywoman has revealed that 88% are predicting business growth over the next five years, compared to 74% of men. And with over 600,000 majority-owned female-owned businesses in the UK, that would be quite a shot in the arm for our ailing economy…

In fact, NatWest and Everywoman have tried to quantify just what this might be worth to us. The average female-owned business apparently has a turnover of £200,000 – so if just 40% of these companies manage to boost turnover by 25% (to £250,000), that would add an extra £12bn to UK GDP. A slightly arbitrary calculation, perhaps, but it shows just how substantial the sums involved could be.

It also shows the growing confidence of female entrepreneurs – as we’re constantly told these days, this is a tough climate to run a small business, but they seem unbowed in the face of some pretty fierce economic headwinds. Everywoman co-founder Karen Gill suggested this was ‘testament to the progress we have made as a sector in such a short space of time’. Apparently healthcare entrepreneurs are the most gung-ho, with at least half predicting 25% growth in the next five years, closely followed (more surprisingly) by those in the marketing/ media industry.

The only fly in the ointment is that women are still less confident about their financial knowledge: 53% said they didn’t understand the range of products available to them, compared with just over a quarter of male entrepreneurs. We’re sure there’s an element of machismo in this disparity: women are probably more likely to admit their ignorance than men, particularly in an area like this. But it does at least suggest that banks need to do a better job of explaining the options to their female clients.

NatWest points to its own Women in Business service, which it says has so far attracted 18,000 female-owned business clients. But it’s clear that more needs to be done – as Gill says: ‘In this current economic climate, it is imperative these business owners have access to the advice and information necessary to maximise their business skills.’ In other words, even these super-confident female entrepreneurs need help to get anywhere near this £12bn growth…

P.S. In the December issue of MT, we ask the question: would we be in the current mess if women ran the City? Some people don’t think so. Keep an eye out for it next month...

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