The role of entrepreneur has traditionally been a male one and statistically more men than women still choose to start their own business. However, increasing numbers of women are deciding to go it alone and the gender gap is narrowing every year.
Starting a business is now a viable career option for women and while barriers to entrepreneurship undoubtedly still exist, four in every 100 women are active business owners.
Business opportunities now exist for women of virtually any financial, social and domestic circumstance. The Internet and mobile technology are particularly responsible for opening-up entrepreneurship to people that might previously have been unable to make the necessary commitment to the traditional 9-to-5 business.
It’s now possible to start a business with little more than a good idea, a computer and a mobile phone. While it requires as much dedication and hard work as it ever did, in many circumstances, there’s far more flexibility in when and how to work and communicate.
As more women enter the fray, attitudes are thankfully changing too. Businesses and financial institutions are embracing the trend and are actively seeking to work with a gender they previously spent little time, money or attention targeting – as women now make up 30 per cent of all business owners, they’d have been foolish not too.
Pleasingly, of the all the female entrepreneurs we spoke to our profiles section only one complained that she'd experienced discrimination or not been taken seriously for being a woman.
The government also appears to have recognised the value of female entrepreneurs. In June last year, chancellor Gordon Brown said: “UK startups would rise by 50 per cent if the startup rate amongst women matched that of men”.
Perhaps motivated by the need to boost the economy as much as by its moral conscience, the government launched a scheme in September to encourage more female startups in a bid to eventually startup rates in the US, where 100,000 extra businesses are created by women each year than in the UK.
So while there’s still progress to be made to ensure women gain the same level of opportunities in business as men, the traditional obstacles of social and domestic responsibilities, lack of access to finance and plain old-fashioned prejudice are diminishing.
The following section looks at every aspect of starting up for women in business. But first of all, click here to take a look at the facts surrounding the rise of female entrepreneurialism.