One in three female entrepreneurs experience sexism and one in five face unequal access to opportunities

One in three female entrepreneurs experience sexism and one in five face unequal access to opportunities

One in three (32%) female entrepreneurs have experienced sexism as a business owner, while one in five (19%) have also experienced gender inequality and unequal access to opportunities, according to a new study by Simply Business, one of the UK’s largest providers of small business insurance.

Overall, a staggering 91% of female entrepreneurs say gender bias and inequality is prevalent in business, with a third (33%) describing it as ‘widespread’ or ‘severe’.

To better support female business owners, over a third (38%) called for more one-to-one mentorship from a business expert, alongside support and advice with funding (37%). A further third (33%) called for more tips and advice from female leaders in their industry and two in five (41%) female business owners called for the opportunity to network with other women business owners.

Experiences of sexism and gender bias in business

As a deep dive into experiences of sexism and gender bias in business, the study by Simply Business revealed over a fifth (22%) of female entrepreneurs have faced investors, colleagues, or customers making quick assumptions about them, or underestimating them when compared to their male counterparts.

One in five (20%) also don’t feel they’re taken seriously compared to males in their industry, and nearly a fifth (15%) of female entrepreneurs don’t feel they have a loud enough voice, or aren’t heard enough compared to men.

What’s more, a fifth (16%) state they’re not taken as seriously when pitching their product or business, and one in 10 (8%) don’t have access to the same networks or mentors as men.

Overall, this has led to a quarter (25%) of female entrepreneurs struggling with confidence in business.

Baroness Karren Brady CBE, ambassador for Simply Business, comments: “The level of gender bias and inequality within business, particularly within the small business landscape, is astounding. Sexism and bias, whether conscious or unconscious, will erode confidence over time and lead to unequal opportunities. It’s vital we challenge sexism and bias, and equip female entrepreneurs with the tools, access and confidence to overcome these obstacles. We need to inspire women into business, not bring them down.”

Female entrepreneurs and business owners have experienced gender bias and sexism across all industries and regions of the UK.

Jenny, who works in Leisure and Tourism in North West England shared her experience: “Unlike many other types of inequality with business, reporting bias within these interactions is unmeasured and therefore unseen. Even at times when I’ve been included, my voice has not been valued compared to my male counterparts and I’ve had my ideas stolen or attributed to a man.”

Samantha Small, owner of Mother Shipton Inn pub and restaurant in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire added:As a woman who both heads a busy kitchen and runs the business as a whole, it still astounds me how many people will direct comments or business advice to my male partner. Everything from oven repairs to new suppliers. It’s a bug bear, but unfortunately, something that I’ve had to learn to deal with.”

Improving gender equality in business

Well over two fifths (45%) of female entrepreneurs feel more people overall need to call out gender bias or inequality as it happens, to help improve the sheer level of bias widespread across industries.

Furthermore, 43% are calling for greater exposure and education on the issue, for all people in business regardless of gender. Two in five (39%) state unconscious gender bias training throughout all businesses is needed, alongside more equal benefits (e.g. equal maternity and paternity pay) throughout the business landscape.

A further 37% of women business owners want dedicated female business and investor programmes, and a third (34%) state there needs to be greater access to support for funding, mentorship and networks.

Sarina Stokes, Head of Operations at BFG Print Ltd, a print and design business based in Shoreham, shared her challenges: “I have not felt confident giving myself the title of business owner as I know most people associate business ownership as a male-dominated area. I call myself head of operations as I know many people do not think a female could own a company.”

Advice and confidence

Despite the challenges, 96% of female entrepreneurs would recommend starting a business to other women. Within this, a third (32%) continue to describe it as rewarding.

When looking at business trajectory among female entrepreneurs, 92% remain confident about the next 12 months, with two in five (40%) feeling ‘very’ confident.

Baroness Karren Brady CBE, ambassador for Simply Business, added: “We need to harness the talents, ambitions and drive of women, at any business, big or small. I’m proud to partner with Simply Business to shine a light on sexism and bias in business – it’s an ongoing challenge we need to resolve. Supporting and mentoring one female entrepreneur, and giving them the skills and tools they need to flourish, is a positive step forward in this journey.”

Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business, commented: “Here at Simply Business, we’re proud to support many thousands of thriving small businesses across the UK that are run by women. By partnering with Baroness Karren Brady CBE – a formidable businesswoman with a fascinating story and a wealth of insights to share – we’re hoping countless more female entrepreneurs will be inspired to follow their big dream and become their own boss.

“Small businesses are crucial to the UK economy and will prove pivotal to our economic recovery from the pandemic. We’re thrilled to offer one female business owner the opportunity to receive an exclusive, one-on-one mentoring session with Karren as well as many others to join the webinar with her. We know a hugely positive impact awaits, with Karren helping to support and guide lucky entrepreneurs through the next phase of their business journey.”

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