UK economy 'losing out on £1bn per year due to lack of female entrepreneurs'

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Britain is lagging behind international peers like the US and Canada when it comes to female entrepreneurship and is losing out on an economic boost of £1 billion per year as a result, according to research.

The proportion of working women starting their own business in the UK nearly doubled to 7.1% from 3.7% between 2009 and 2012, but has fallen each year to total only 4.7% in 2015, a report by NatWest and Development Economics found.

If that rate of growth had been sustained to reach the same level as Canada at 13.5%, Britain's economy would have benefited from an extra £1.35 billion in 2015, the report claims. 

The US, Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden all have a higher number of female entrepreneurs than Britain, in proportion to the number of working women, at 9.2%, 7.3%, 7.2%, and 4.9%, respectively.

Development Economics managing director Steve Lucas said: "The UK still lags behind the likes of the US and Canada, which have a much higher proportion of female entrepreneurs.

"In these nations, the celebration of entrepreneurial qualities is something that is deeply embedded, whereas the UK has a reputation for being more risk-averse and in some cases having excessive red tape that might constrain entrepreneurship.

"If the UK is able to bolster its efforts to help female entrepreneurs, the opportunity for further economic growth is significant."

Female entrepreneurs - which the report says are "central to the UK economy" - set up nearly 1.2 million businesses in the UK between 2002 and 2015. 

But the study found that women only launched a third of the new businesses set up in 2015, with men setting up the rest.

Regionally, London saw the highest number of women-led businesses set up in 2015 at 33,200. That is followed by Manchester at 5,200, Birmingham at 5,100 and Leeds at 3,700.