Women have been playing an increasingly significant role in the UK economy, often referred to as the “Sheconomy”. As of the second quarter of 2023, the employment rate for women aged between 16 and 64 in the United Kingdom was 72.1 percent, signifying an era of female dominance in the corporate world.


The rise of the Sheconomy not only represents a shift towards gender equality in the workplace but also has significant economic implications. The increased participation of women in the workforce contributes to economic growth, diversifies the talent pool, and can lead to more balanced decision-making within businesses. 

In this analysis, we’ll look at the UK’s economic dominance by women across multiple sectors.

Editor’s Highlights

  • In 2021, 29% of UK women considered starting a business, compared to 18% of men
  • Major barriers for UK women entrepreneurs include insufficient savings (35%), perceived high risk (24%), and confidence issues (15%)
  • The number of self-employed women in the UK reached 1.72 million by late 2019
  • Women’s representation in FTSE 100 and 250 leadership roles has been increasing, with the ratio of male to female entrepreneurs at 3:1 in 2021
  • The number of women-owned businesses in the UK surged from 56,200 in 2018 to 151,603 in 2022, marking a 169.8% growth rate
  • Women-owned businesses in the UK contributed £85 billion to the annual economic output in 2022, amounting to 16% of the SMEs Gross Added Value (GVA)
  • Edinburgh and South East Scotland had the highest ratio of female to male self-employed individuals, at 39%
  • Health and social work sector was the top industry for self-employed women in the UK, with 256,000 women representing 74% of the sector
  • In 2022, FTSE 100, 250, and 350 had 9%, 4.8%, and 6% women CEOs respectively, with a total of 21 female CEOs registered under FTSE 100 and 250

Women in Business Statistics

As entrepreneurs, business leaders, and workers, women contribute to innovation, job creation, and economic growth in the United Kingdom. With this, they further diversify and expand the country’s economic playing field. 

How Many Women Have Considered Starting a Business in the UK? 

GenderConsideredNot Considered 

According to a 2021 report by Tide1, ‘The UK Entrepreneurship Index’, eighteen percent of women considered starting their own business, while 82% never considered. On the opposite gender, twenty-nine percent of men considered taking off a business, while 71% did not give it any consideration. 

To simplify, one of five women considered starting their business, while more than one-quarter of men considered it. From the women’s side who considered starting a business, only 20% (i.e, 3.6% of the 18%) had started off their business, accounting for one of five women. Those who have not started owe their explanations to some certain reasons which will be looked into further below. 

What Prevents Women from Starting Their Own Business in the UK? 

Business Obstacles1Percentage of Women1
Not Enough Savings/Finances 35%
High Risk24%
Running A Business20%
Lack of Confidence15%

The reasons for not starting a business differ from women. Some of the popular reasons from the 18% who considered starting a business are explained below:

  • Not Enough Savings or Finance – 35%

A significant portion of the UK women, 35%, cite insufficient savings or access to finance as a primary barrier to starting a business. This statistic reflects the financial challenges many aspiring female entrepreneurs face. They may not have the capital required to initiate and sustain a business venture, which can include expenses for startup costs, operational expenses, and financial security.

  • The Risk is Too High – 24%

A notable 24% express concerns about the perceived high risks associated with entrepreneurship. This shows some women are apprehensive about the uncertainties and potential setbacks that come with starting and running a business. High risk can encompass various factors, such as market volatility, competition, and the fear of financial loss.

  • Already Running a Business – 20%

This is the only positive from all other responses preventing women from starting their business. A staggering 20% confirmed they’ve already taken off their own business, indicating they’ve thought about it well that it’s time to establish one.

  • Low or Lack of Confidence – 15%

For 15% of women, low or lack of confidence is a significant obstacle to entrepreneurship. These women require support, mentoring, or self-development to overcome this barrier.

  • Other – 6%

The ‘other’ category which accounts for 6% includes personal circumstances, family obligations, lack of relevant knowledge or skills, or other unique challenges not covered by the other categories.

What’s the Trend of Women in Business over the Years in the UK 

In the UK, the rise in self-employed women is a positive trend, providing more opportunities for women to work for themselves and contribute to the economy. 

In 19841, the number of the UK self-employed women was 646,000. During the first quarter of 19952, the number had risen to 0.92 million, representing 8.1% of the entire UK women in the labour market. Between 1996 to 20002, this ratio declined to 0.87 million, seeing a 6.9% dip between October and December 2000.

By the 21st century, the number started increasing, exceeding one million of women in the workforce by 20062. Since that time, there’s been growth in the workforce, entering into the second decade of the 2000s. In the last quarter of 20192, growth of women in business peaked to 11%, totalling 1.72 million who are self-employed. 

The impact of covid-19 saw the population reduced in 2020. In 20203, the number reduced to 1.6 million, representing 10.3% of women in the UK business. Interestingly, the number of women in the UK business rose by 52.1% between 2010 and 20213.

What Percentage of SMEs in the UK Are Led by Women? 

The percentage of SMEs led by women in the UK increased slightly from 2019 to 2020. However, the reverse was the case when compared to 2010.

In 20104, one of five (20%) of the SMEs businesses in the UK were led by women. By 20195, it has declined by 5%, and the statistics stood at 16% in 2020. In addition, the UK SMEs businesses equally led by the male and female counterparts was almost quarter, 24%.

Regarding the management team, the SMEs employers had 11% of women in minority positions, similar to the haul in 20195. Conversely, 45% of men held the same position, 45% from 46% in 2019.

Ideally, not all SMEs businesses will have a large team. In this course, SMEs led by women without a team were 21% in 20205, an increase from 17% in 2019. However, the SMEs led by women with a team was 16% in 2020, 5% lower than an SME led by women without a team. 

How Many UK Businesses are Owned by Women? 

YearWomen in Business 

The recent data on women in business are those from 2018 and 2021. This data shows an exponential growth of 158.4% between 2018 and 2021. In the UK, the number of women starting businesses in 2021 was 145,200, an increase from 56,200 in 2018.

In 2022, companies owned by women in the UK grew to 151,603, standing at 4.41% growth rate from 2021. Comparing this rate to 2018, the growth from 2022 stands at 169.8%, more than 11% compared to growth rate from 2018 to 2021.

What’s the Ratio of Male to Female Entrepreneurs in the UK? 

In 20226, the ratio of men to female entrepreneurs in the UK is 3:1, reported the Financial Times. 

Between 2018 and 2022, women have more than twice launched their business in the UK. While they’ve been closing the gap late on as against the men’s number, there’s still one woman in three men with their own business in the country. 

Sources: Tide1, Pro Builder Mag2, Global Data3, AshBurnHam4, Money5, Financial Times6, Diversity7    

Women in Leadership Statistics

Women are increasingly found in vital leadership positions. The Financial Times Stock Exchange Group (FTSE) recorded women in leadership roles. In the subsequent sections, we’ll consider the FTSE 100 and 250 ranking between 2017 and 2021.

Representation of Women in FTSE 100 Leadership Roles

FTSE 10012017120181201912020120211
Representation of Women in Leadership22.20%27%28.60%30.60%32.50%
Number of Women in Leadership20842397256127533062
Total Leadership Role82668882897089909415

What can we say about the FTSE 100 table? Even when the numbers of women are critically below the number of men represented in the leadership roles, the consistency in women in leadership ranking raises high hope that more women would be part of the decision makers in years to come. 

Between 2017 and 2021, there were an additional 10% of women found in leadership positions according to the FTSE ranking. More so, the number of women in leadership in 2020 increased by 306 within a stipulated period of a year. Interestingly, between 2020 and 2021, there were only 425 additions to the overall leadership role, indicating 72% representation of women in leadership in that time, with men amassing 28%.

Representation of Women in FTSE 250 Leadership Roles

FTSE 10012017120181201912020120211
Representation of Women in Leadership24%24.90%27.90%28.50%30.70%
Number of Women in Leadership29842964320332433638
Total Leadership Role1241411923114911138211848

The FTSE 250 had a few complications, yet the number of women in leadership keeps rising from time to time. The only period the number of women in leadership reduced was in 2018, understood as the total leadership roles were at its lowest from the periods considered. 

In 2017, the percentage of women in leadership was less than a quarter, 24%, and was a little below one-third by 2021. Within this time, women had also seen their numbers increased in leadership functions, with almost 22% growth from 2017 and 2022. The total increase in leadership roles in 2021 was 466 from 2020, women, 395, having a greater share of approximately 85% compared to men. 

What’s the Gender Split in Corporate Board Roles Across UK Industries? 

Board RolesWomen (%) Men (%) 
FTSE 100239.160.9
FTSE 250236.863.2
FTSE 350237.662.4

The number of UK women board representation showed an increase across the three FTSE above in 2021. 39.1% of women are represented in the UK corporate board in 2021, showing that big companies find women participating in this role fitting.

The FTSE 350 had more women, 37.6%, in the corporate board than FTSE 250, 36.8%. While the margin is not too distant, the increase from the previous years was an indication that women are considered great assets by these companies. Interestingly, the women representation in FTSE 350 boards and leadership is expected to reach nothing below 40% by 2025.

What Percentage of UK CEOs are Women? 

FTSE TypePercentage of CEOs (%) 

The number of male CEOs is larger than the female counterparts, which is clearly stated by the FTSE companies. The figures above are the results of 2022 in the United Kingdom, showing that 9% of the FTSE 100 companies are owned by women. Similarly, 4.8% of the FTSE 250 companies had women as CEOs, while only 6% of all FTSE 350 companies had female owners. 

How Many CEOs in the UK are Female? 

The UK had 21 female CEOs registered under the FTSE 100 and 250 in 2022.

Here’s a table showing the women’s CEOs in the UK from 2017 to 2022

YearsFTSE 1004 FTSE 2504

Sources: Money1, The Motley Fool2, Statista3, Statista4          

Economic Contribution of Women-Led Businesses in the UK 

Since sheconomy is attributed to female economic participation, what are the women’s involvement in the growth of the Britain economy? Let’s find out how much they contribute. 

How Much Do Women-owned Businesses Contribute to the UK Economy? 

The women-owned businesses in the UK have been increasing recently. In 20151, women-led businesses created more than 77,000 employment, while generating £3.51 billion in its economy. Fast forward to 20222, the women-owned businesses are above 150,000. 

Comparing the annual average turnover, women-owned businesses have £1.3 million, while the men-owned businesses are ahead with £3.1 million3 annual turnover. Also, the women-led businesses in the UK contributed £85 billion4 to its annual economic output, amounting to 16% of the SMEs Gross Added Value (GVA). 

Sources: Natwest Group1, Working Mums2, We Are The City3, Money4       

Geographic Distribution of Female Entrepreneurs in the UK

The UK comprises four states, so which regions are businesses owned by women mostly established, and what are they into? Let’s find out. 

Which Areas in the UK Have the Highest Number of Female Founders? 

City/Region1Self-employed male1Self-employed female1% of self-employed who are female1
Edinburgh and South East Scotland553539
South East48628937.3
Rest of South West25714936.8
East Midlands21211835.8
Rest of Scotland764134.9
Rest of North East412234.8
North of Tyne Combined Authority351934.7
West of England Combined Authority482634.7
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority371934.2
Rest of Yorkshire and The Humber1799233.9
Aberdeen City Region211033.5
Glasgow City Region603033.3
Greater London Authority57828633.1
Sheffield City Region512432.5
Rest of West Midlands1527131.8
Rest of North West1436731.7
Rest of Wales542531.5
Rest of East of England29413331.1
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority612730.9
Cardiff Capital Region562530.9
Tees Valley Combined Authority241029.4
Greater Manchester Combined Authority1295429.4
Swansea Bay City Region361528.9
West Midlands Combined Authority1224527.2
Northern Ireland993526

Edinburgh, Scotland, is not the region with the highest number of female entrepreneurs in the UK, but it led in terms of ratio. The region has 35 female entrepreneurs, with 55 businesses being owned by men. 

Regarding numbers, the South East of England has the highest number of female-owned businesses in the UK, with 289 women having their own businesses against the 486 men owned. 

In top 11 is Aberdeen, a city in Scotland, with 31 total self-employed individuals. Representing these numbers are 10 females, while 21 are male. But the region made this position through conversion to rate. 

What Are the Top Industries for Female Founders in the UK? 

IndustrySelf-employed maleSelf-employed female% of self-employed who are female
Health and social work90,000256,00074%
Households as employers9,00020,00069%
Other service activities109,000219,00067%
Prof, scientific, technical activ.393,000228,00066%
Accommodation and food services90,00079,00047%
Admin and support services210,000172,00045%
Arts, entertainment and recreation146,000110,00043%
Real estate activities43,00032,00043%
Public admin and defence30,00021,00041%
Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles268,000131,00033%
Extraterritorial organisations2,0001,00033%
Information and communication170,00054,00024%
Financial and insurance activities74,00024,00024%
Agriculture, forestry and fishing135,00036,00021%
Water supply, sewerage, waste10,0002,00017%
Mining and quarrying10,0001,0009%
Transport and storage298,00022,0007%
Electricity, gas, air cond supply9,00000%

Health and social work sector is the top industry for most self-employed women, with 256,000 women representing 74%. Households as employers follow with 69%, while other service activities are next in line with 67% from a total of 219,000 women in entrepreneurship. 

While self-employed women in mining, construction, and transport storage sectors are less than 10%, no woman is found owning a business in the electricity or energy supply sector. In a nutshell, the 9,000 men leading this sector are 100% as it’s solely dominated by gender. 

Sources: Money1, Tide2

Rounding Off: More Women, More Roles, More Growth

The rise of the sheconomy in the UK is a testament to the significant strides women have made in the business world. The data and statistics presented in this analysis paint a picture of a dynamic and evolving landscape, where women are not only contributing to economic growth but are also breaking barriers and challenging traditional norms. 

The increase in the number of self-employed women, women in leadership roles, and women-owned businesses is a positive trend that highlights the growing influence of women in the UK’s capitalist economy. However, it is important to note that challenges and barriers still exist, with issues such as lack of savings, perceived high risks, and low confidence being significant obstacles for women entrepreneurs. Despite these challenges, the future looks promising for women in business in the UK.

Aremu Adams Adebisi graduated from college with a B.Sc in Economics. He’s pursuing his MBA while covering trending topics in trading, investment, and cryptocurrency. He’s fascinated by the surges of...

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