Eight in ten young people can’t name one female entrepreneur

A staggering 81% of 11-18-year olds are unable to name a single female entrepreneur, according to new research1 from Santander.

The study also found that children today are nearly four times as likely to think of a man than a woman when they hear the word ‘entrepreneur’ (37% vs. 10%).

Over six in ten – 63% – of girls aged 11-18 said they have never thought about starting their own business, with the main reason cited that they don’t know anything about how to begin (43%).

With only a fifth of businesses in Britain being run by women2, the research highlights the knock-on effect the lack of visible female role models is having on the next generation.

The research also suggests that parents across the UK may play a part in perpetuating an entrepreneurship gender divide, with just a third – 35% – of girls stating that they have been encouraged by their parents to become an entrepreneur (versus 42% of boys).

The study also found that almost half – 46% – of parents believe entrepreneurship is largely male-dominated, with a quarter (27%) saying it’s because ‘men are more business minded.’ 

Susan Davies, Managing Director, Santander Business, commented: “It’s shocking that as we enter the 2020s some parents continue to believe that boys are somehow more naturally suited to business than girls.

“These findings clearly show that as a nation we need to do much more to encourage and support young women to become entrepreneurs. It’s vital to the UK’s success that we harness the huge potential of young women to drive economic growth and shape the country’s future through new business ideas.”

Santander’s research also revealed seven out of ten (70%) children claim they have never been encouraged to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice at school. Among those who have, there is a further gender disparity – with just 20% of girls saying they have been encouraged to become an entrepreneur in school (versus 24% of boys).

In a bid to support the next generation in considering running a business in the future, Santander has today launched a new guide to becoming an entrepreneur, including videos and tips from a range of successful female business owners.

Olympic and three time World Champion, Santander ambassador and entrepreneur Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, said: “It’s very disappointing that despite the progress that’s been made on gender equality in recent years there is still such a stark gender divide when it comes to young people and entrepreneurship. That’s why I’m working with Santander to inspire more young women to think about starting their own business and support them with practical, real-world advice from successful female entrepreneurs. Launching a new business is extremely daunting, even for someone fortunate enough to have had a head start like me, so I know this kind of support will be really valuable to anyone thinking of taking the plunge.”

Among the small percentage of children who could name a female entrepreneur, Karen Brady and Deborah Meaden were the most recognised, highlighting the lack of visibility of more recently established female business owners.

Top Five Female Entrepreneurs named by children 

  1.     Karen Brady
  2.     Deborah Meaden
  3.     JK Rowling
  4.     Beyonce Knowles
  5.     Oprah Winfrey                                         

Last month Santander launched its largest ever programme to support aspiring female entrepreneurs – the ‘Women Business Leaders’ mentoring programme3 – connecting them with a successful business owning mentor.

The annual Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards, one of the UK’s largest entrepreneurial business pitching competitions for students and recent graduates, has supported a wealth of female entrepreneurial talent over the last nine years. Recent successful female entrepreneur winners and runners-up include: Lauren Bell, Cosi Care (Winner 2019); Lauren Leisk, Fodilicious (Winner 2018); Jenny Evans, Jenny Kate Designs (Winner 2017); Irene Breen, BellaMoon (Winner 2017); and Kalkidan Legesse, Sancho’s (Runner-Up 2017). 

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