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Government-backed Taskforce is tackling the North East female entrepreneur gap


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Only 6% of high growth enterprises (HGEs), as defined by the OECD, across the UK were founded by all-women or majority-women teams

The Taskforce – established last summer – is particularly focused on increasing the number of women-led high-growth businesses in regions outside of London. It is identifying the main barriers in accessing high-growth capital, influencing high-growth investors and the wider business community, and establishing areas to stimulate regional opportunities based on robust data and engagement.

The data, collected by Beauhurst, highlights the barriers to women. Although companies founded by men and women work in the same sectors, and high growth enterprises (HGEs) with at least one female founder have higher turnover (£125m v £93.6m), the evidence indicates that they receive around 60% of the funding companies with at least one male founder receive on average. In the last year HGEs with at least one female founder received on average £5.78m per funding compared to £9.55m for HGEs with at least one male founder.

This follows the Treasury-commissioned Rose Review, which found that, if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men, they could boost the economy by £250 billion.

Minister for Women, Maria Caulfield, says: “Women make-up more than 50% of the UK, but only six percent of high growth enterprises were founded by all-women or majority women teams. We know women have the drive, skills and ambition to launch successful businesses and we want to tear down the barriers holding them back.

“Change occurs when everyone is pushing in the same direction. It is vital to everyone that we close the gap and boost the economy. Government and industry are working together to tackle this issue, because equality is good business.”

Anne Boden, chair of the Taskforce and CEO and founder of Starling Bank, says: “There I was, a 5ft tall Welsh woman knocking on the doors of firms saying, ‘I’m going to start a bank’. Who would really want to take a risk on a woman in her fifties? Who in their right mind starts a bank anyway?

“I know the challenges that women, particularly those outside the London tech bubble, face when setting up a business, as do all the women on the Taskforce. We want to ensure every woman who wants to succeed as a high growth entrepreneur has a fair crack at doing so.”

We also see regional disparities – of around 44,000 HGEs tracked by Beauhurst, less than 3% are in the North East – 10 times less than the nearly 31% that are in London. The North East also has the least women-founded OECD-definition HGEs – none of them were founded either entirely or mostly, by women. There are only five companies that have at least one female founder.

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