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The climate for female entrepreneurship: UK's tech sector could do better

More must be done to encourage female-led tech startups
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Now in its second year, the Gender-GEDI report is an annual index measuring the conditions for women entrepreneurs across the globe.

Announced at the 2014 Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network, this year's study revealed marked improvements in the UK as a place for fostering women entrepreneurship. But findings also show the UK is amongst the lowest-scoring nations when it comes to women entrepreneurs launching technology businesses.

We caught up with Dell's Sarah Shields to find out more about how the report was conducted, what it reveals, and what more can be done to help advance women entrepreneurship in the workplace, specifically when it comes to women-led tech businesses.

TechRadar Pro: What is the Gender-GEDI report and how does it measure female entrepreneurship?

Sarah Shields: The Gender-Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) is a really exciting study that measures the environments for female entrepreneurship in 30 countries – evaluating which factors are supporting women in starting their own business, and which are barriers.

The report, commissioned by Dell, measures these factors by analysing entrepreneurial ecosystems, business environments and individual aspirations across developed and developing economics. It spans multiple regions, and provides a systematic approach that means we can compare the environment for high-potential female entrepreneurship across countries.

The research is very important as it aims to guide leaders, policymakers and law-makers in identifying countrywide strengths and weaknesses with a view to creating more favourable conditions in their countries, enabling businesses founded by women to succeed and prosper.

TRP: What do the UK results show about the environment here for female entrepreneurs?

SS: We're on the right track! The results of the 2014 report show the UK is improving as an environment for female entrepreneurs, but unfortunately more needs to be done as we are still lagging behind European countries like France and Germany. The UK came in seventh place with a ranking of 54/100, placing it behind countries including the US (83), Australia (80) and Sweden (73). However, it was just one of four countries to have improved its ranking – moving ahead of last year's position by one place.

The good news, however, is that the UK was one of only five countries to achieve the highest score (100) for its SME training, indicating that ours comes out top in terms of being accessible to women and men alike, its availability countrywide, its affordability, and in taking into account women's time constraints such as childcare.

In further good news for us, the UK is a real hotbed for 'opportunity' startups, with a healthy amount of startups (71%) being founded to take advantage of an opportunity, increase income or fulfil personal aims – that's opposed to being started because of limited employment options.

To give a fantastic example from Britain's pool of 'opportunity' startups, entrepreneur Julia Elliot Brown, a member of the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), started up her bespoke shoe business, Upper Street, after being inspired by her sister's experience with made-to-order shoes and spotting a gap in the market. With no prior knowledge of the fashion world or how to make shoes, Julia is a case in point for UK women's appetite to build a business from a great idea alone!

On the 'needs improvement' list are tools to support female entrepreneurs establish an effective work-life balance after starting-up. For example, the UK lags behind European countries such as France when it comes to the availability, quality, and affordability of childcare, which is absolutely critical for women who are starting their own venture. The UK received a 60/100 score, while France, for example, achieved an exemplary 100/100.

When it comes to the number of female startups in the UK, we're seeing that there are only 4.8 startups for every 10 male startups, with the research demonstrating that these rates are even lower in the tech sector – we'd love to see this improve. This statistic puts the UK on par with other European countries such as France (4.4:10), but we lag behind the US (7.1:10).

Desire Athow
Desire Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.