Supporting more female entrepreneurs

Last year, I talked at length about the need to support more female entrepreneurs and the great work our own Virgin StartUp have been doing to address the problem.

While just 20 per cent of single-person businesses in the UK were owned and run by women in 2014, 41 per cent of businesses funded by Virgin StartUp are run by women, something we’re very proud of.

However, women make up half of the world, and so they should make up half of the business world too. On International Women’s Day, I wanted to share our progress in this area. To celebrate our amazing female founders, we ran a very special event last year, where we heard from Lucocoa founder Ama Uzowuru and Polka Pants founder Maxine Thompson, who were both funded by Virgin StartUp. This year Virgin StartUp is putting on another event for International Women’s Day bringing together elite female athletes who will be sharing their insights on leadership and success in the world of sport and how you can use that to achieve better results in business. Speakers include GB High Jumper, Morgan Lake and StrongLikeMum founder, Shakira Akabusi. 

Virgin StartUp is attempting to tackle some of the glass ceilings that still exist in this space through events like these, and by sharing the inspiring stories of these female entrepreneurs. We spoke to the founder of Frugl, Suzanne Noble, about how we can combat the biases still present against women in tech, and the founder of network Talented Ladies Club, about ways we can get more women into business and support their entrepreneurial activities.

Running in parallel was #VSU40percent – a social media campaign that highlighted the imagination and diversity of our female founders and their enterprises – and hopefully provided inspiration for those looking to follow a similar path.

We also conducted some research to learn more about the shared pain points of our female founders. As you can read here (What help do female entrepreneurs really want to see?), we found that:

  • Childcare and better access to funding are key concerns for female entrepreneurs;
  • There is a demand and need for better support networks and mentoring;
  • Many female entrepreneurs experience discrimination and feel that confidence and fear of failure are issues that stop more women starting up.

With all this in mind, Virgin StartUp has started to adapt how they deliver their services, to encourage greater female participation, including running masterclasses for mumpreneurs mid-morning, rather than in the evening and holding specific networking events for female founders. They even made their last pre-accelerator, StepUp, female-only. Take a look at what happened:

All this work is having an impact and helping us to edge closer to the goal of equal gender participation in entrepreneurship. I’m proud that of all the start-ups we’ve funded since the beginning of the programme, 41 per cent have female founders. I’m looking forward to seeing that number continue to rise in 2018.

P.S: StepUp is open for applications once again – taking place in June 2018 it’s a two day programme consisting of workshops and networking opportunities that will help to develop the skills and knowledge founders need in order to take their business to the next level.


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