IWD 2022 Breaking the Bias: Supporting Female Entrepreneurship

Following another successful and thought provoking International Women’s Day with a flurry of events and activities, Claire Flanagan reflects on the discussions about female entrepreneurship in the UK and how grant funding as a support mechanism along with efforts in increasing diversity will help to #BreakTheBias.

In 1972, Katharine Graham became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Fast forward 50 years and there are more men named Peter* leading the UK’s top companies than women.

In 2019, the Rose review of female entrepreneurship estimated that if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men, this would result in up to £250 billion of new value add to the UK economy.

However, accessing start-up funding and investment has been identified as the number one barrier for female entrepreneurs.

A chicken-and-egg situation?

At PNO we specialise in grant funding and note that the majority of our applications are led by men. Is this because more male entrepreneurs exist? Or because more men than women apply for funding and are therefore able to grow their enterprises?

Looking at the data, yes, there are fewer female entrepreneurs (only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is female) however, in 2016, only 1 in 7 Innovate UK applicants were women!

Support is available so why are more women not asking for it?

If as part of the wider IWD discussions, we are talking about encouraging and supporting more female entrepreneurship, grant funding as a support mechanism can be a game changer for getting a start-up off the ground. As well as accelerating your research, you will be required to define your business plan and go to market strategy, all crucial preparation for pitching and making your case for private investment (the main barrier identified by Rose), as well as being fantastic PR.

To try and address this under representation, Innovate UK has launched the Women in Innovation programme and PNO offer our congratulations to all the winners announced as part of this years IWD celebrations. (See full list here).

Are women more suited to applying for grant funding?

Taking parallels with job hunting where it has been found that women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the qualifications (compared to 60% for men), and, considering grant funding is a competitive endeavour (typical success rates can be as low as 5%, with applications needing to score 80% plus in order to secure funding), this more thorough approach is exactly the mindset needed when preparing an application, where all of the assessment criteria must be addressed in order to successfully secure funding.

Final thoughts and words of encouragement

A key theme of IWD is ‘Breaking the Bias’ and funding agencies are actively working on improving accessibility and increasing inclusivity more than ever: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is a big priority for Innovate UK and, Gender Principles are now a mandatory requirement in Horizon Europe proposals. Not addressing diversity considerations in grant funding applications/projects is no longer acceptable which is A. Good. Thing. For everyone. It has been recognised that more diverse teams are stronger, and more successful, which ultimately results in an improved bottom line.

So, if you are a female entrepreneur and would like to explore grant funding what are you waiting for? We would be more than happy to support you so if you would like to discuss a project idea for grant funding get in touch!

Contact us on 0161 488 3488 or info.UK@pnoconsultants.com or submit an online enquiry here.

* Admittedly, the head of our organisation is also named Peter. PNO UK is led by a female director and we are proud to have a 50:50 female:male employee ratio in the PNO UK team.

Background reading:

  • The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship – report
  • Women in Innovation: understanding barriers to innovation – Innovate UK report
  • Women in Innovation programme – KTN website
  • Guidance on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) questions at Innovate UK – Innovate UK website
  • Gender Principles in Horizon Europe – PNO article
  • Why women don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified – HBR article
  • Diversity Confirmed To Boost Innovation And Financial Results – Forbes article