The Alison Rose Review looked into the barriers facing female entrepreneurs and outlined a number of recommendations to improve female start-up and scale-up rates. Implementing the recommendations could contribute an additional £250 billion to the UK economy.

The review, which was sponsored by NatWest’s CEO of Commercial and Private banking Alison Rose, found five key barriers that lead to lower rates of entrepreneurship amongst women: 

The biggest barriers are:

Low access and awareness of capital 

Greater risk awareness

Perceived missing skills and experience

Disproportionate primary care responsibilities   

Lack of relatable sponsorship/mentorship/role models

The report has found three main areas of opportunities to improve the situation and has set out eight recommendations in response: 

Opportunity 1: Increase funding for female entrepreneurs 

Initiative 1: Work with UK’s largest private equity funds to encourage investment in female entrepreneurs.  

Initiative 2: Increase transparency of funding allocation through a new Female Entrepreneur’s Investment Code that commits financial institutions to gender diversity.

Opportunity 2: Provide greater family care support for female entrepreneurs 

Initiative 3: Review existing and create new banking products aimed at entrepreneurs with family care responsibilities 

Opportunity 3: Expand awareness and access to support, including mentorship and networking opportunities offered by existing and new networks 

Initiative 4: Expand existing mentorship and networking opportunities   

Initiative 5: Accelerate the development and roll-out of entrepreneurship course 

NatWest is exploring a number of additional initiatives with UK based partners:

Initiative 6: Set up an “established entrepreneur advisory board” to drive investment and support to female entrepreneurs. 

Initiative 7: Creation of a first-stop shop digital platform 

Initiative 8: Improve access to expertise by expanding the entrepreneur and banker in residence program

Sam Perry, Director of Commercial Banking at NatWest, said: “Without question women-led businesses have a vital role in the economy. We know that tailored support from specialists can make a great difference in overcoming these barriers and our accredited Women in Business specialists as well as our three-stage business accelerator programme are just some of the ways we are supporting business in Yorkshire.” 

NatWest launched its Women in Business programme in 2003 and currently have more than 500 accredited Women in Business specialists working across the UK.  

The Women in Business specialists understand the different challenges that female business owners face as well as the way they think and run their business. 

The NatWest Accelerator programme is run at 12-sites across the UK including Yorkshire. Since the launch of the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator programme, the bank has prioritised supporting female entrepreneurs and ensuring that there is a positive gender balance across all of our propositions including the hub in Leeds, Yorkshire. Women make up 47% of the participants across the programme.

Sam said: “It’s clear there is a great deal of good work going on already to support women but there is always more we can do. We are working with our partners across Yorkshire to develop new initiatives and take action on some of these recommendations.”

Part of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Business Enterprise Fund (BEF) is a not-for-profit social enterprise, set up to provide alternative business finance and support to entrepreneurs across the North. 

Stephen Waud, Chief Executive at BEF, said: “We welcome the Alison Rose Review as a hugely important report that raises the awareness of, and tackles the funding challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in the UK. 

As part of our alignment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we actively promote funding support to female entrepreneurs and have a commitment to address the funding gap highlighted in the report. 38% of all our start-up finance last year went to female entrepreneurs. That’s over £700,000 to help kick-start female-led businesses. More needs to be done across the finance sector and it’s encouraging to see initiatives being established by Natwest and their partners.”