Changing women in business

Posted on: 11 April 2014

The changing shape of women in business

Since the suffragette movement in the early 1900s, the look, shape and feel of women in business has changed significantly. Indeed, figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions last month show that female employment in the UK (now at 67%) has never been higher.

More women own a business

In the 1970s women started entering the workforce in droves. Today, not only are more women working, but more doors appear to be opening for women wanting to set up their own business too:

  • 80% of the new self employed from 2008 to 2011 were women (says Smarta)
  • Women made up 31% of sole traders registered in the UK in 2012. That’s a rise of more than a fifth since 2008 (says businesszone).
  • In retail, hotel, catering and leisure sectors, 49.5% of small businesses established in the past two years are owned primarily by women (says the FSB).


Further, women are taking on financial risks that are reaping rewards in the form of profits. In other words, they are becoming successful entrepreneurs. According to the Office for National Statistics, there are almost 10% more female entrepreneurs now than two years ago, compared to 3% more male entrepreneurs.

One of the contributors to the rise in female entrepreneurs is the ability of businesses and families being able to adapt to enable women to balance their responsibilities at work with those at home. And so the word ‘mumpreneur’ has come to being. It first appeared in the Collins English Dictionary in 2011 and is a Marmite phrase that is loved and loathed in equal measure.

According to Mumpreneurs UK, there are 300,000 mumpreneurs who contribute £7.4bn to the UK economy every year. They fit their business around looking after their children and it is apparently this combination that is seeing their number increase year after year.

Women and social enterprises

The rise of the social enterprise is also appearing to give more women opportunities to work. Social Enterprise UK has found that twice as many women run social enterprises as lead small businesses.

Social enterprises are businesses that trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. Their contribution to the UK economy is estimated at £24bn and according to Social Enterprise UK they are more likely than SMEs to report that their turnover has grown in the last year.

Female game changers

So it seems that over the past 50 years women in business have shifted away from working ‘in’ business towards owning and running one. And many are being seen as real game changers, not only in the economy and society as a whole, but in their local communities and amongst their families and friends. Because they are proving that the gender gap really doesn’t need to exist.

Aptly, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which was marked on Saturday 8th March, was ‘inspiring change’. There were more than a thousand events being hosted across the UK but we particularly like The Guardian’s campaign #BeYourselfAtWork. Men and women are sharing the one piece of advice they would give a woman in their life, and we could all learn something new from the hundreds of contributions already made.

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