Thursday 10 June 2021 2:00 pm

Female entrepreneurs are being held back by old-fashioned ideas of who can start a company

Jenny Griffiths MBE is the founder and CEO of Snap Vision

London is wasting half of its talent, but it’s not just London. It’s UK wide.  We’re an incredibly entrepreneurial nation. Even during a global pandemic, the capital has emerged from lockdown with 6 per cent more new businesses than from the same period last year, according to the Centre for Entrepreneurs. And yet, half of our talent faces endless challenges.

From funding shortages to imposter syndrome, they hit hurdles discouraging them from starting, growing and exiting businesses. Imagine how many more companies and innovations we’d see if we removed these barriers. I’m talking about a group of people who make up half our population yet receive just 2.3 per cent of venture funding: women. 

To put it another way, startups with men in their founding teams receive over 97 per cent of funding to launch and grow their business, while female founders, who make up a third of entrepreneurs in the UK, are left with under 3 per cent of funding.

It doesn’t matter who an entrepreneur is pitching to, either. Numerous studies, including a notable one by Harvard Business Review, have demonstrated that even if pitching to a predominantly female audience, pitches by women get less funding than identical pitches presented by men. This occurs even when the slides, script and proposition are the same.  

Women routinely face different questions than men in these identical pitches. Male entrepreneurs were asked about their hopes, achievements, advancements, and ideals, while female entrepreneurs were asked about safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance. Put simply, men get a chance to further sell themselves while women have to defend themselves. 

This is a clear illustration of the numerous hurdles female entrepreneurs currently face, meaning they have to outperform men to achieve the same success in business. 

Sounds far-fetched? It’s not.

Female entrepreneurs secure less money, giving them less investment to grow their company, while having to defend every business decision more than their male counterparts. And is it any wonder, when society has very clear ideals for how an entrepreneur looks, sounds, acts and does? 

Think about the last few times you read about an entrepreneur and how they were portrayed. For most of us, I’d bet the businesses were in technology, construction, finance or transport – all areas that, according to UENI’s Report on Gender and Small Business, are disproportionately male. 

Entrepreneurship comes in many shapes and sizes. From the small coffee truck or local nail salon, to the global airline or financial corporation. No matter the scale or industry, each began with a person and an idea they were passionate about bringing to life.  

With over a decade as a female tech entrepreneur, I’ve seen first hand the hurdles women face in starting a business. That’s created a passion for me: making sure I keep the door open for the women who come after me and helping them have an easier journey.

Challenges women face originate in society’s views of entrepreneurship, they are underpinned by roles we designated to be for men and for men. Changing those will require, first and foremost, giving a more diverse range of entrepreneurs more public visibility.

London is a hub of activity. There are those innovating in finance and technology who we read about daily, but there’s also many creative entrepreneurs, and those innovating in food, beauty, fashion, convenience, healthcare, wellness, and many more industries with higher percentages of female entrepreneurs. Each has diverse entrepreneurs leading the charge, telling those stories is the beginning of a paradigm shift.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.