UK Economy Missing Out on Billions Due to Female Funding Gap


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New analysis suggests UK economy is missing out on billions due to the female funding gap

The gulf between the amounts received by men vs women from government-backed startup loans has widened by 78% since an official report called for funding for women entrepreneurs to increase.

New analysis reveals that the gap in the value of Start Up Loans to male vs female entrepreneurs is now £13 million wider than it was in 2019, when the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, a report commissioned by the Treasury, included a key recommendation for more funding to female entrepreneurs.

The report said that the UK could add up to £250 billion to the economy if women started and scaled up new businesses at the same rate as men. And while there are other potential avenues for entrepreneurs to get funding, the Start Up Loans scheme is a key source.

Call for more funding for women

In her 2019 report, Dame Alison, a former CEO of NatWest Group, said: “From our detailed research we believe the biggest opportunities to help female entrepreneurs fall in 3 areas:

  • Increasing the funding directed towards them;
  • Greater family care support; and,
  • Making entrepreneurship more accessible for women and increasing support locally, through relatable and accessible mentors and networks.”

Following the report, the government announced an ambition to significantly increase the number of female entrepreneurs by 2030.

However, analysis of data exclusively obtained by the finance site from the British Business Bank found the value of Start Up Loans granted to female-led businesses in 2023 was £46.7 million, while the value of loans to male-led firms was £76.6 million, creating a gender disparity of £29.9 million.

While the value of loans granted to female entrepreneurs has increased since 2019, it hasn’t risen at the same rate as loans to men.

The value of loans to male-led businesses increased by 44% in this period, rising from £53.3 million to £76.6 million, compared to an increase of just 28% for female-led businesses, rising from £36.5 million to £46.7 million.

How many Start Up Loans did women get?

As well as looking at total loan value, the analysis also reviewed the number of individual loans granted to men and women and found that only 2 in 5 Start Up Loans were granted to female-led businesses in 2023.

While the actual number of Start Up Loans granted to women has increased slightly, from 3,557 in 2019 to 3,850 in 2023, the percentage of loans granted to women has decreased from 43% in 2019 to 40% in 2023. This is despite the government’s target of boosting female entrepreneurship in the UK.

The UK has seen some progress towards equality in business, however. Over the same period, there’s been a rise in women holding leadership positions at the UK’s largest companies: 42.6% of members on FTSE 100 boards were women in 2023, up from 32.4% in 2019.

What’s next?

Commenting on the findings, Michelle Stevens, business loans expert at, said: “Work is being done to improve representation at the highest level, as shown by the make-up of FTSE 100 boards, so why can’t the same be said for those wanting to launch or grow a small business in the UK?”

The British Business Bank told Finder: “Consistently over time, around 40% of our Start Up Loans have gone to female founders – a significantly higher proportion than across the rest of the market for startup financing.

“According to the latest available statistics from 2022, 18% of smaller businesses with employees and 20% of smaller businesses without employees are female-led. By delivering 40% of our loans to women, we’re helping to address this imbalance. Our aim is to increase this still further to 50% over the coming years.”

About the author

Liz Edwards is editor-in-chief at She’s been a consumer writer and editor for more than 20 years, led award-winning teams at the campaigning publisher Which?, and has covered a range of consumer rights and personal finance topics including pensions, credit, banking and insurance. Liz has appeared frequently in national media such as The Sun, Metro, HuffPost and The Independent. She loves to cut through waffle to give consumers the real lowdown.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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