When it comes to the gender split of small business owners in the UK, a recent study found that just 32% of UK businesses are owned by women. This is an increase compared to 2017, when it was reported that just 17% of British entrepreneurs were female.

Despite this growth, 32% is still a figure that puts female entrepreneurs in a minority. And, as a result of being under-represented, women face unique challenges in the business world. So what are some of these common barriers, and how can we strive to overcome them?

Balancing worlds and responsibilities
Despite the fact there has been an important shift towards offering females greater flexibility when it comes to familial obligations, there is still a long way to go. Achieving a work-life balance can be harder for women, who tend to be more likely to take on primary caregiver roles and responsibilities.

With pressures in both the personal and business realms, female entrepreneurs are often forced to compromise on time spent in one of these worlds. This can put a large amount of strain on female business owners, who try to balance social expectations with running a successful business.

As you work to juggle professional and personal commitments, find coping mechanisms to keep stress at bay. Whether it’s sharing the workload, organising your calendar better or taking more time to mentally unwind, there are always steps you can take to work on time management and work - life balance.

Accessing funding for business
Maintaining positive cash flow and ensuring a business’s finances are in good health is important for all business owners. Unfortunately, access to funding for female-led businesses remains an issue not only in the UK, but across the world.

Statistics show that there is a 70% higher insolvency rate in male led companies. Yet, research by Access Commercial Finance found that only 16% of all UK business loan applications are submitted by women. These stats reveal that in the past it has been harder for women, particularly women of colour, to get approved for business finance. Luckily, more and more alternative finance platforms are focusing on this need to increase access by providing business loans for women.

Being taken seriously in their role
Most female business owners, managing directors and women working in high positions will be able to recall a time when they have encountered gender bias, or been mistaken for a lower position within the company. As well as this, women commonly report feeling as though they are not being taken seriously in their role, getting questioned when it comes to all levels of management and decision making within a company.

It’s true that women have to work twice as hard to defy gender stereotypes and misconceptions. However, as a female business owner you can try to use this experience to your advantage when it comes to understanding female consumers and the market segment, propelling your business and its sales forward.

Tending to be more risk-averse
A number of different studies have found that on the whole, women tend to be more risk-averse than men. In particular, women dislike financial risk taking, which partially accounts for the lower numbers of applications for business finance.

Women tend to take ‘safer’ risks, and this can be partly attributed to a lack of confidence compared to men. Our whole lives, society teaches men that they can succeed at whatever they want.

Whilst being risk-averse is not always a bad thing, it can mean that business growth and development in female led businesses can take longer than our male counterparts, with women taking less risks to avoid potential failure. So, as a female business owner, have confidence in your decisions, and start taking bigger risks. Leaping out of your comfort zone can result in huge benefits for your business.

A lack of networks and mentors
A further survey found that a huge 48% of business owners feel that a lack of mentors and relatable business advisors has restrained their professional growth. In a world that is dominated by men, women need to have business figures they can relate to, to inspire them to be better.

Learning is a huge part of growth, and the only way we can get better at what we do. For this reason, it’s imperative that we continue to highlight and share female achievement in business.

An increasing number of networks for female business owners are appearing. Online, you will find more and more platforms that offer relatable advice, helpful tips and stories for inspiration. Here are a few popular UK platforms to get you started:

  • British Association of Women Entrepreneurs
  • Enterprising Women
  • Mumpreneur UK
  • Women Entrepreneurs UK

Make the last quarter of 2021 count!