Women entrepreneurs outnumber men - but only if they're under 35

Female millennials are flying the flag for British entrepreneurialism, but it's not such a rosy picture for older business owners.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 08 Apr 2016

Older entrepreneurs might have the benefit of years of experience, but according to a new report from HSBC, they could learn a thing or two from millennial entrepreneurs – those aged under 35.

The Essence of Enterprise report surveyed some 2,384 business owners across the UK, France, Germany, China, Hong Kong, Singapore the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It found that those aged under 35 have firms with an average turnover of $11.5m (£8.1m) compared to an average of $4.8m for older entrepreneurs.

And apparently contrary to much public opinion about selfish and entitled millennials, 69% of those surveyed said positive economic impact was a factor in their decision to go into business. Nearly two thirds said they wanted to have a positive impact in their community. Who’d have thought it? Some 89% even said they were actively involved in philanthropy last year, though there's no clarification on how that was defined. 

When it came to the gender split, there was positive news for the UK – the majority (59%) of millennial entrepreneurs were female. The numbers were less impressive across other age groups though. Only 16% of UK entrepreneurs over the age of 55 were female, rising to 30% of those aged 35 to 54. Whether that’s due to people being put off because they expect more barriers than others – pointing to a battle of ageism as well as sexism – isn’t clear. Many have spoken about pattern recognition among investors – not fitting into the expected can work against you.

HSBC’s report suggests there’s more to be done on tackling unconscious bias, which is still a pervasive problem for female entrepreneurs and women in business more widely. But the upswing among the younger demographic is a promising sign about the perception of opportunity – more young women may now feel running a business is a viable career option. And they’re not doing badly either. The average business revenue generated by female entrepreneurs was $4.1m compared to $4m for men in the study.

Of course the sample size of this study isn’t as robust as it could be when spanning such a range of countries, so it’s difficult to draw too definitive judgements from the findings. But it does point to changing gender diversity among UK entrepreneurs – the proportion of female business owners has nearly doubled with each generation according to HSBC. And it also does a job at myth-busting when it comes to millennials.

Are you a bright, ambitious woman aged 35 or under? Apply to be part of MT's 35 Women Under 35 list. Deadline for applications: Monday 25 April. 

Win two tickets to MT's Inspiring Women Birmingham conference (21st April 2016):

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