Female Entrepreneurs (And The Priory Of The Orange Tree)

Featuring Richard Wadman | 8th March, 2019

It might seem odd that I, a male, should feel compelled to blog about the “Landmark review” published today by HM Treasury entitled the “The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship”.  

My compulsion was in part a result of listening to Samantha Shannon talk passionately last night in my local Waterstones about her motivations for writing her latest novel – The Priory of the Orange Tree – a novel borne in part from the fact that female characters have not featured proximately in fantasy fiction. The fact that her book is sitting high in the New York Times bestseller list is testament to a demand for better female representation in this genre.

The lack of female representation is also manifest in business, as the ‘Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship’ report published today has confirmed and this report also places a value on the loss to UK economy of not giving females in business the same opportunities and encouragement to set up grow businesses as us men.  That cost is £250bn (equivalent to four years of economic growth).

The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship

I cannot do justice to the 125 page report in this blog, but some of the issues identified and proposed actions to address the issues are summarised below.  The report was commissioned by HM Treasury in September 2018 with “Alison Rose appointed

  • To examine barriers faced by female entrepreneurs
  • Identify ways of harnessing this untapped talent (as only one third of UK entrepreneurs are women)”


“The cumulative effect of women’s different decisions along the entrepreneurial journey is that men in the UK are five times more likely than women to build a business of £1 million+ turnover”.  These decisions include:

  • “Fewer UK women choose to become entrepreneurs than in best practice peer countries”
  • “At almost every stage, women are less likely to pursue entrepreneurship”

There is also “Perceived bias within the UK venture finance community” which is cited as “a concern”.

Proposed initiatives

“Key to helping improve UK productivity will be to ensure that women have access to the advice and support they need to fully develop their entrepreneurial skills and supporting women who wish to scale up their enterprises.”

“There is no one silver bullet that will transform the landscape for female entrepreneurs overnight. Many barriers are cultural and societal, and will take many years to overcome. However, there are real and practical steps that can be taken given the importance of this matter to the UK economy.”

“…eight initial initiatives provide a starting platform for the further significant and sustained action that we believe is required to ensure the UK taps the full unrealised potential of women as entrepreneurs.” 

These eight initiatives are headed up as follows:

  1. Promote greater transparency in UK funding allocation through a new Investing in Female Entrepreneurs Code
  2. Launch new investment vehicles to increase funding going to female entrepreneurs
  3. Encourage UK based institutional and private investors to further support and invest in female entrepreneurs
  4. Review existing and create new banking products aimed at entrepreneurs with family care responsibilities
  5. Improve access to expertise by expanding the entrepreneur and banker in residence programmes
  6. Expand existing mentorship and networking opportunities
  7. Accelerate development and roll-out of entrepreneurship-related courses to schools and colleges
  8. Create an entrepreneur digital first-stop shop

Immediate actions

“The government has responded with the creation a new Code for Investing in Women that will see banks and other financial institutions publish the gender split of the investments they make, showing if businesses are either male or female-led. The move will encourage financial institutions to adopt a set of best practices that will benefit female business owners across the country.”

“The move is part of ambitious plans to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by 50% by 2030, matching leading major economies such as France, Canada and the US for gender equality.”  [the 50% equates to 600,000 more women starting their own businesses by 2030]

Lloyds, UK Finance and UK Business Angels Association have already committed in principle to the Code and will be actively looking at the commitments over the coming months.


“As well as establishing the Code for Investing in Women, the government today announces they will also:

  • improve online advice for all aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses
  • welcome industry-led initiatives to set up a female-focused investment fund
  • support an industry-led task force to drive more funding to female entrepreneurs
  • back efforts to increase local businesses mentors for women and promote entrepreneurship among 15-18-year-old girls in schools”

Let me leave you with the report’s author Deputy CEO of NatWest, Alison Rose for the final words (with my italics): “Some of the findings are stark but by shining a spotlight on the issues and outlining the barriers and opportunities, the aim is to support the full potential of every woman who has the entrepreneurial spirit and ambition to start or scale their business. Today is just the beginning.”

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