Top 12 Female Entrepreneurs for International Women’s Day
Being a woman in a male-dominated space can be challenging, with societal factors such as the glass ceiling, maternity leave, and ’emotional’ states leading men in power to question the ability of a woman to do a ‘man’s’ job. So, in this special edition of Business Leader Top 12, we celebrate some of the UK’s top female entrepreneurs, whose impressive portfolios span decades of experience and expertise, in support of International Women’s Day.
However, if you think there is a female entrepreneur missing from our list, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This list is in no particular order.
Martha Lane Fox
Martha Lane Fox is the Founder of Lastminute.com, an online travel and leisure retailer, launched in 1998 alongside Brent Hoberman. Martha Lane Fox is also the Founder of Doteveryone, a no-longer-active site that aims to better technology use by individuals, and the Co-founder of Lucky Voice, a chain of private karaoke rooms and cocktail bars.
Fox is also the President of the British Chambers of Commerce, the Chair of WeTransfer, a Non-Executive Director of Chanel, and the Chancellor of the Open University.
Fox became the youngest female member of the House of Lords, entering in 2013 and becoming Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho. Prior to this, Fox was an advisor to Gordon Brown and David Cameron as UK Digital Champion 2009-2013.
Dame Sharon White
Dame Sharon White made history as the first female Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and was named as Second Permanent Secretary for HM Treasury in 2013, responsible for overseeing spending cuts, becoming the first black person, and second female, to get into a treasury role.
White started in civil service in 1989, working at the World Bank, Ministry of Justice, and in Downing Street during Tony Blair’s time in office. She was CEO of Ofcom between 2015 and 2019 and was later named the most influential black person in 2023 by Powerlist.
Harriet Green is the Executive Chair and Founding Trustee of Mission Beyond, former Chair and CEO of IBM Asia Pacific where she was responsible for strategic business initiatives, and an Ambassador for Every Child Needs a Mentor. Green also founded Academies for Our Young with Potential.
Green has been a CEO with the Thomas Cook Group and a board member for Singapore Economic Development and is currently on the Advisory Council for King’s College London Business School.
Green became Managing Director of Marco Group aged 29 and progressed her career from there, eventually being awarded an OBE in 2010 for her services to electronics, and later in 2016, was inducted into the Woman in IT Hall of Fame.
Alison Rose DBE is CEO of NatWest Group, taking over in 2019 to become the first woman to lead one of the four big banks in the UK. Her previous experience includes a spell at the Royal Bank of Scotland, where she progressed to hold senior positions like the Head of Commercial and Private Banking.
Rose is on the Board of Directors for the Institute of International Finance, a member of the International Business Council for the World Economic Forum, and is part of the 25×25 initiative to get 25 female CEOs in the FTSE 1000 by 2025.
Rose was also commissioned to lead a review of UK female entrepreneurship called The Alison Rose Review, with highlights including the Investing in Women Code campaign and expanding mentorship with the Council for Investing in Female Entrepreneurship.
Founder and global CEO of Stella Insurance, Sam White created care insurance that is noted as being ‘passionately pro-women’ with further plans of using a percentage of their customers’ premiums to help fund women escaping violence through the Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre.
White was also the Founder and Chair of Freedom Services Group, founded in 1999, after getting a job in the insurance sector and realising what it was like in a male-dominated industry.
She is also a recent podcast guest for the Business Leader Podcast where she discusses female funding, failure, and what makes a great business leader.
Mums in Technology is a baby-friendly coding school – created by June Angelides – which encourages maternity leave to be an opportunity for development as opposed to a barrier to progression. Angelides founded Mums in Tech during maternity leave with her second child and is one of the few black women in Venture Capital. Angelides has received an MBE for services to women in tech.
She launched her own podcast, Believe It, Achieve It, which aims to inspire women and features successful female entrepreneurs, athletes, financial experts and more on their stories of what they achieved. She has hosted panel discussions and runs a monthly discussion for female founders and investors.
Ayesha Ofori has previously held roles like Executive Director at Goldman Sachs, and been a Private Wealth Adviser to high-net-worth individuals, managing over $500m in client assets.
She launched PropElle Network, which pivoted to PropElle in 2022 to become a female-focused investment platform, and the Black Property Network in 2019, focusing on women and minority groups, democratising property investment, and helping people build stable financial futures.
Ofori’s achievements have been recognised by winning titles such as the 2019 Women of the Future Award and being named one of ‘30 of the UK’s most inspiring entrepreneurs’ by Business Leader.
Possibly best known for her role as Lord Alan Sugar’s partner in The Apprentice, Karren Brady built her career in the football club industry.
Karren Brady started out in advertising sales and later became Managing Director of Birmingham City Football Club in 1993 when the club was in administration, and four years later became the youngest Managing Director of a UK plc after floating the club on the London Stock Exchange. She sold Birmingham City in 2009 for £82,000,000, joining the West Ham board in 2010.
Currently, Brady is CEO of West Ham United Football Club, which is valued at over £800,000,000, and was previously a consultant for Syco Entertainment. Brady also received a CBE for her services to business, entrepreneurship, and women in business.
Ella Mills, Founder and Brand Director of Deliciously Ella, created this online platform after developing a condition that affected her autonomic nervous system and led her to become invested in health and well-being, creating a plant-based food and wellness platform.
Originally meaning to be a personal project to encourage Mills to eat more plant-based foods, Deliciously Ella has expanded into six cookbooks; an app; seven lines of food products in stores across the UK; a restaurant in central London, Plants by de; and a podcast exploring health and wellness through expert interviews.
Previously a Senior Investment Manager at Mitsui & Co., Yvonne Bajela led over $200m in investments in companies and is now Venture Partner of Impact X Capital.
Bajela is also a Partner at Local Globe and Latitude, venture capital and private equity principals based in London. She aims to further explore the African startup ecosystem after developing an interest in founders in the early stages of development throughout their careers.
Yvonne Bajela was also featured on the Business Leader Podcast where she spoke about what motivated her to get into the business of investment.
Sara Murray is the Founder of Buddi, a wearable personal alarm with an automated fall detection and alert system, originally used as a GPS tracker for personal safety but is now assistive technology for the elderly and those with Alzheimer’s, providing increased independence.
Prior to this, Murray founded Ninah Consulting, a marketing consultancy, and in 1999 founded inspop.com, an online insurance marketplace, both of which have been absorbed into confused.com.
Murray is also the Senior Independent Director of Boohoo.com plc, is on the Council of Imperial College London, and is a founding board member of Seedcamp, an organisation designed to assist the entrepreneurial community.
In 2012, Murray was awarded an OBE for her services to Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Julia Elliott Brown
Julia Elliott Brown is the CEO and Founder of Enter the Arena, a company providing investment advice and coaching to female founders for pre-raise and investment, ultimately empowering women through a male-dominated space.
Brown is a Fundraiser and Growth Advisor to female founders at Natwest Entrepreneurial Stark and Virgin Startup. She is also a podcast host of Fundraising Stories with Female Founders and Author of the book RAISE: The Female Founder’s Guide to Securing Investment.
Brown was featured on Business Leader Podcast where she discusses the barriers females have faced in funding and building confidence in male spaces.