Research by a national newspaper revealed that just 9% of all start-up funding went to women in 2016.
Further exploration into the reasons at a business breakfast run by the paper produced speculation that perhaps women lacked confidence, or perhaps lacked business education.
Among the issues raised was that there is still a perceived gender imbalance in schools, where the take-up of STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) subjects, for example, was still significantly higher among boys than girls, despite heavy promotion of the STEM programme for more than ten years.
It may be that this feeds into the perception that fewer women are likely to consider starting up a business in sectors using this kind of knowledge and skill.
Whether it is a matter of perception or fact, it is hardly a good thing that the economy may be losing out on around 50% of the innovative skills, potential and ability that could be available.
In reality there are now plenty of women running small businesses and the number has been growing fast. The most recent research by Aston University, Birmingham, found that the proportion of working-age women that went into business rose by 45 per cent in the three-year period between 2013 and 2016, compared with 2003 to 2006.
Also, according to Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, a support group for entrepreneurs, 63 per cent of its 72,000 members are female, and about two-thirds of those attending its events are women.
But whenever entrepreneurship is a topic in the media there is a tendency to focus on male entrepreneurs, such as Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, or Mark Zuckerberg and this reinforces the idea that few women go into business. London mayor Sadiq Khan stated recently that in his experience more than two thirds of women were unable to identify a female role model in their field.
More concerning is the evidence from other research that a substantial majority of female business owners feel they are not taken seriously by either investors or financial services, some even saying that they had been treated unfairly, leaving them with no option but to fund their ventures from their own pockets.
Retail analyst Mary Portas has gone on record to say she had experienced this gender bias many times throughout her own career, on one occasion being told by a CEO that they would only speak to her male business partner, despite her owning 90% of the business.
While funding for entrepreneurs as a whole almost doubled in 2017, the proportion of all funding invested in businesses with a female founder fell from 14.9 per cent in 2016 to 8.5 per cent last year.
Another suggestion, that perhaps those women who do go into business have done so from a situation where they are not their family’s main breadwinner and therefore there is less pressure to succeed or there may be more financial help and support from family is hardly credible in this day and age.
The reasons why women do not seem to be benefiting from the advantages that finance facilities can provide not only in funding but also in support and advice to start and grow their businesses may be a matter of conjecture.
But Gipping Finance most definitely does not discriminate between genders. We welcome approaches from any entrepreneur who needs finance and support and comes to us with a sound idea and business plan.