The number of female entrepreneurs is rising rapidly – is it fast enough?

By Fiona Scott on 6 March, 2020

Sunday 8th March is International Women’s Day 2020. It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

For 110 years, the day has been recognised and it is a focal point in the movement of women’s rights and also marks the achievements of working women. Each year has a theme and this year it’s Each for Equal raising awareness of gender bias.

To celebrate International Women’s Day in Swindon and Wiltshire we take a look at the rise of the local female entrepreneur.

A study has shown the South West region has the highest number of women running their own businesses than anywhere else in the UK. 

According to payment provider PaymentSense, their survey of 70,000 small businesses has revealed that 37 per cent of small business owners in our region are female. The national average is 34 per cent. 

However, across the whole SME sector, women are still under-represented even though there has been significant growth in female-run businesses over the last two years (from 19 per cent to 34 per cent overall). 

The top three sectors for female-owned businesses are:

  • Personal services (including care & social work) at 64 per cent. 
  • Clothing & Fashion at 49 per cent.
  • Arts/Crafts/Photography at 49 per cent. 

The lowest three sectors for female representation are:

  • Automotive at 17 per cent.
  • Repair at 23 per cent.
  • Construction at 24 per cent. 

Talking to female entrepreneurs who live or work in Swindon and Wiltshire, they seem to identify two key factors in this consistently:

  • choices offered through technology and the internet. 
  • the mindset of the millennial generation which has a different take on work life balance. 

Entrepreneur Zina Pearce has, with two female colleagues, created South West based recruitment agency Resource Harmony Ltd. Flexibility is at the heart of this new business which operates across Wiltshire. 

With many years in the sector behind them, they are only working with companies willing to embrace diversity and flexibility to attract and keep talent. They specialise in IT, finance, sales and marketing. 

Co-founder Zina said, “I worked in IT and tech for 20 years, I was on a university course where I was the only female out of about 100 students and since that time it’s not been much different – and that’s a real shame. The software industry lacks diversity and then as a parent there were the challenges around having flexibility and continuing in that environment. This has to start changing.”

The company actively seeks out candidates who are parents, often mums, the over 50s and PhD holders – the latter can find it hard to get work as they can be perceived as being overqualified for many positions. 

Julie Brackenbury is an aesthetic nurse practitioner who runs her own business JB Cosmetic. She holds a clinic in Malmesbury regularly. 

Julie Brakenbury, owner of JB Cosmetic

She said, “The number of female business owners on the rise because it provides them with independence and empowerment as well as flexible working hours, or to work the hours they want.  

“With a growing fast paced society and more choice available to us, sometimes security in relationships or even marriage is not 100% guaranteed, so it could be that women are thinking “outside the box”.

“Women often want a career and an earning capacity to fall back on should their relationship break down. In addition, recent media coverage of the gender pay gap could possibly have an impact and has got women thinking……”

Natalie Sherman is the founder of Naturally Social which is a social-first communications agency, based in Corsham.

Natalie Sherman, Naturally Social

She said, “It feels like there’s been a lot of discussion around self-employment and enterprise in recent years which is really healthy and helps us to ask the question ‘what if?’ 

“Generationally, women are choosing to have children later on in their lives, or not at all; allowing them to perhaps focus on their careers. Not only that but digital technologies mean starting a business is easier than ever, no matter what our family makeup is or what age we are. 

“Is it fast enough for reasons of diversity? No…but the rate of growth looks promising. There are many other factors that will affect this though, particularly around encouraging women into industries which have traditionally been male-centric.”

Harriet Scott, who lives in Swindon with her husband, runs Harriet Scott Consultancy and offers local business owners support with planning and implementing their goals with effective business operations. She outlines some practical issues which could affect a woman’s (or a man’s) decision to ‘go it alone’:

  • opportunity provided by tech and the online platforms such as Instagram, Etsy and others. 
  • costs of commuting – with return tickets from Swindon to London costing around £130 a time, it’s not long before it becomes more cost effective to make another choice. 
Harriet Scott, Harriet Scott Consultancy

She said, “Corporates are putting more pressure and higher workload on staff. A lot of companies focus on cost saving, efficiencies and lowering overheads and staff numbers. I feel this drives more females to want to run their own business so they have less stress and more flexibility around family commitments. 

“I also feel some of this will be the millennial spirit. Over the last few years, yoga, meditation and mindfulness has become so popular and I believe this has led to many men and women being more focussed on their mindset, stress levels and wanting a better work life balance. 

“I am one of these people, I used to be a work addict, career focused and working 40+ hours a week. I am still career focused and a work addict but on my own terms now and I feel I can now start a family to fit into this lifestyle. I control the hours I work and my stress levels are so much lower.”

For more information about the survey and to see its findings in more detail visit:https://www.paymentsense.com/uk/blog/female-business-owners-research/

For more information about International Women’s Day go to: www.internationalwomensday.com and follow the conversation on social media #IWD2020  #EachforEqual

Pictured above: Naturally Social’s Natalie Sherman