Just one in three entrepreneurs in the UK is female and closing the gender gap could generate an extra £250bn for the economy, a government review has found.
The disparity in women-run firms represents more than a million “missing businesses”, according to the Treasury-commissioned report.
It also found businesses run by women are on average half the size of male-led firms and far less likely to scale up to a £1m turnover.
In response to the review, carried out by NatWest deputy chief executive Alison Rose, banks and other lenders are being encouraged to publish what proportion of investment goes to female entrepreneurs.
Alison Rose has stressed the need to 'unlock the huge untapped potential'. Pic: Tom Parkes
The creation of a code, Investing in Women, was one of the proposals set out in the report published on International Women’s Day.
Major banks such as HSBC and Lloyds have already pledged to sign up, the Treasury said.
The review found a shortage of role models and a perceived lack of skills and experience were among the obstacles preventing women from becoming entrepreneurs.
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Some of the recommendations put forward to tackle these issues included expanding existing mentorship and networking opportunities and speeding up the development of entrepreneurship-related courses to schools and colleges.
The government is aiming to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030, to match major economies including France, Canada and the US on gender equality.
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Ms Rose said: “The UK has one of the most vibrant entrepreneurial communities in the world, but only one in three of our entrepreneurs is female – we need to be more ambitious and find ways to unlock the huge untapped potential.”
She added: “Some of the findings [of the review] are stark but by shining a spotlight on the issues and outlining the barriers and opportunities, the aim is to support the full potential of every woman who has the entrepreneurial spirit and ambition to start or scale their business.”
Theresa May said the report showed that while there have been improvements in the area of women in business, further progress was needed.
The prime minister said the review team had “set out an ambitious path to break this glass ceiling so that we can realise the full potential of female entrepreneurs and boost economic growth”.
She added: “I am committed to real change in this area, starting with our action today to encourage more companies to look at the gender split of who they choose to invest in.”