The proportion of UK female-led companies has increased by just 0.5 percentage points year on year, according to new data.
Women-led companies now make up 17.3% of the UK total, up from 16.8% in the year prior, according to The Gender Index.
While there was a 14.8% rise in the number of female-led companies that secured external funding, the gender divide remains vast. Male-led companies received seven times more funding than those led by women, the analysis of 4.5 million active companies conducted by data analytics platform mnAi found.
It showed that the majority of funding going to female founders are Gen Z and millennials. There was a small year-on-year increase in the percentage of female representation in leadership roles at ethnic minority-led companies, rising from 19.2% to 19.3%.
Jill Pay, chairman of The Gender Index, said: “More young women and ethnic minorities are raising external capital and running female-led companies than ever before, reflecting our belief that everyone regardless of age, race or gender should not face barriers to starting a business.”
Out of the four UK nations, female-led businesses in Northern Ireland received the highest percentage of external capital. Meanwhile, Wales had the highest proportion of female ownership across the UK at 34.6%.
By total volume, England has the most female-led businesses (714,000), followed by Scotland (228,477) and Wales (22,900).
Last year there was growth in the percentage of companies run by women in the West Midlands, as well as Yorkshire and Humberside, but London still represents the largest share at 18.6%.
John Cushing, CEO of mnAi, said: “This research also highlights the ongoing challenges for female-led companies accessing external capital.
“While it is clear from our data that there is still a long way to go, we look forward to seeing what other trends emerge over the coming year as we continue to push for positive change through data.”
The data is in line with other reports that show women remain underrepresented in leadership roles and for funding, despite small increases. Data from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology published in March revealed that women-founded UK tech companies secured £3.6bn in venture capital last year, just 15% of the total. Separate research from Beauhurst found that male-founded startups raised 73% of UK funding.
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