There are just over a million self employed women compared with nearly three million self employed men in the UK. Why is it that women still lag behind men when it comes to starting their own businesses when there are so many drivers for women to set up on their own, such as flexible hours, seeking a new challenge, support groups and the opportunity to be more creative?
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor a third of the female population would start a business if it wasn't for the fear of failure. Alongside women's lack of self confidence, they also feel that their gender may inhibit their progress when carrying out business transactions. However there are now so many female business networks setting up all over the country to help women, there is no reason to feel less able than their male counterparts.
These sites offer tailored advice for women including local support networks, putting you in touch with other successful women in your area, who can share their experience and give you helpful tips on starting out. There are also free training courses available to women that provide a useful refresher if you have been out of work for a while, or even if you need that extra confidence boost to get you started, for example the North West women's business network.
Financing a new venture can be a daunting prospect. Many of us wouldn't want to risk our life savings or our homes, however many banks will offer loans if you have a solid business plan to present them with. Approaching potential investors and accessing enterprise grants are other options worth exploring. In 2004, the British Chambers of Commerce published statistics showing female business angels (informal investors who provide advice) invested an average amount of £20,000 into start up businesses in comparison to £17,142 of male business angels. This shows people are clearly willing to invest in women and failing the attraction of business angels, there is always Dragons' Den!
With so much support out there for women and the gender gap slowly closing, there is no reason why we shouldn't see a growing trend of female entrepreneurs. If you think you have a good idea and want to set up on your own there is an abundance of advice online about everything from writing business plans to raising finance and promoting your product or services, and who knows if you take the plunge you might just be the next Karen Millen.
Martin Chillcott is associate director, marketing at Budget Van Insurance.