Baroness Karren Brady CBE: gender bias and inequality in small businesses is ‘astonishing’
Ahead of International Women’s Day, Simply Business, a UK-based provider of small business insurance, has partnered with British Business Executive and BBC’s The Apprentice star Baroness Karren Brady CBE, to reveal the key challenges facing women in business.
A new survey of over 900 women business owners, revealed less than a third of small businesses in the UK are owned by women. It comes as a shocking four in five women business owners (81%) say they have experienced sexism, gender inequality, or unequal access to opportunities whilst running their own business.
The majority (92%) of those surveyed believe the government should be doing more, with childcare support, government-sponsored funding, and access to mentoring and networking called out as areas for desperate improvement.
Sexism and gender inequality remain widespread in 2023
Astonishingly, half of all women small business owners (50%) have experienced sexism as a business owner, while one in three (32%) have experienced gender inequality or unequal access to opportunities.
Meanwhile, four in ten (39%) say investors, colleagues and customers make quick assumptions about them or underestimate them when compared to men in a similar position. A further quarter of women business owners (28%) say they aren’t heard enough compared to men or taken as seriously as men when pitching their product/business (26%). Three in ten (28%) believe that, as a business owner, they aren’t given the same opportunities as men as a result of having children.
As a result, a third (33%) would categorize the issue of gender bias and inequality in business as ‘severe’ and many are demanding immediate action.
Almost half (47%) of those polled believe there is a need to call out gender bias and inequality as it happens, whilst 46% believe more education on gender bias and its impact is urgently needed.
Baroness Karren Brady CBE, ambassador for Simply Business, commented: “The level of gender bias and inequality within the small business sector revealed, is quite frankly astonishing.
“Sexism and bias, whether conscious or unconscious, must be called out for a genuine chance of equality in business. The economy needs the support of small businesses in the UK and we must inspire women to get into business, and help abolish the challenges they face daily.
“Simply Business is a brand that has a track record of supporting women entrepreneurship, a value that I have prioritised throughout my career. That’s why I’m delighted to partner with Simply Business to support small business owners, across the whole sector, at a vital time, starting with a one-on-one mentoring session for a female entrepreneur.”
Deb Pease, Owner of Melbourne cafe, Litchfield: “I experience sexism as a business owner on a daily basis. Generally from male salesmen who ask if they can ‘speak to the male owner please?’. I have shop carpenters that say ‘okay lady, I’ll just ask your husband if that’s what he wants’ despite it being my business.
“I now have to hire female carpenters so I don’t have to put up with that anymore. Meanwhile, there are some technicians that I literally have to ask my husband to talk to, because they won’t talk to me.”
Barriers to business growth
The findings confirm that long-standing sexism challenges still show no sign of going away but there are other barriers.
Despite the overwhelming majority of women entrepreneurs (85%) wanting to grow their business, almost half (44%) said scaling up remains one of their biggest challenges.
What’s more, the cost-of-living crisis is having an overwhelming impact on women business owners, with one in four (27%) having to put their business plans on hold as a result.
Meanwhile, the majority (92%) of respondents believe the government should be doing more to support women business owners. To help solve the issue, women business owners would like support and encouragement from a business mentor or coach (46%), greater access to business funding (45%) or simply more support from like-minded business owners and networks (39%).
Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business, commented: “At Simply Business we’re proud to support hundreds of thousands of women who own flourishing small businesses across the UK. International Women’s Day marks an opportunity for us to celebrate the women making their dreams a reality but also acknowledge and shed light on the unique – and very real – challenges that many continue to face.
“By partnering with Baroness Karren Brady CBE – a hugely admired businesswoman – we’re looking to surface these challenges in order to drive positive change. Small businesses are so crucial to the UK’s economy and communities, and we’re also hoping to inspire countless creative, resourceful women entrepreneurs across the country to follow their business dreams.
“We’re delighted to offer one woman business owner the opportunity to receive an exclusive, one-on-one mentoring session with Karren, as well as granting many others the opportunity to join an exclusive Q&A webinar with her.”