A new £30 million investment fund has been launched to bridge the funding gap for female entrepreneurs in Britain who often face obstacles raising money through traditional channels.
Developed by StarGate Capital Management, Trapezia offers women-led firms financial capital, access to new markets and business mentoring.
"The UK is lagging behind other industrialised countries in terms of investment in innovative early stage companies in general and early women focused businesses in particular," said Stephan Gagnon, director of StarGate Capital Management.
"With gender parity achieved on education, it is only a matter of time before UK women entrepreneurs catch up with their North American counterparts. StarGate believes that this is an emerging opportunity for investors and Trapezia is about enabling women entrepreneurs delivering on their vision and creating value for investor."
Research has shown that the level of investment in early stage businesses as a proportion of UK GDP is less than half of the comparative statistic from the US and less than a third of the investment in Canada.
Yet women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing segments of the Canadian Economy, while the number of women-owned firms in the USA is growing at twice the underlying rate for all US firms, and these firms are increasing in economic importance.
In Europe, by contrast, the proportion of female chief executive officers at venture-backed companies in Europe was a mere 3.3 per cent in 2004, the same as in 2000 and 2001.
What's more, these firms received less than 2.5 per cent of the total venture-capital investment in Europe — which was €3.5 billion in 2004.
In the UK, despite running 700,000 firms and contributing £130 billion to the economy, female owners account for only 15 per cent of the UK's small businesses.
Meanwhile, there is strong evidence that Britain's high street banks have an institutionalised bias against female-owned businesses, typically charging them one percentage point more in interest on business loans.
Gita Patel, Trapezia fund manager, said: "I passionately believe that good entrepreneurial opportunities should not go unfunded. If gender made no difference, it would cease to be an issue.
"However, there are many women influenced businesses that represent a strong investment opportunities that are currently being under-served by conventional sources of funding.
"Though Trapezia I want to mobilize women investors so that their 'pound' gains visibility in backing high growth companies where women make an influencing contribution."