Rural women more likely to be entrepreneurs

Nov 15 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Women are driving enterprise in the rural economy and are almost twice as likely to set up their own businesses as those living in towns.

Research from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor at London Business School has found that the decline in farming and increased availability of broadband internet in rural areas have encouraged some 6.6% of women in the countryside to set up their own businesses, compared to just 3.6% of women in urban areas.

Black women of African origin were also found to be four and a half times more likely than white women to be entrepreneurs.

The report, based on a survey of 32,500 people, was commissioned by Prowess, a national network of organisations that support women in business.

"This isn't just about baking pies and selling them," said Rebecca Harding, executive director of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

"It is about solving rural problems and plugging the gaps in the market that have arisen through the decline of the rural economy."

Jackie Brierton, policy director at Prowess, agreed that the finding was significant.

"More research is needed to pin down the reasons, but women are seeing opportunities in rural areas. There is also more peer support in rural areas," she suggested.

Women are quicker to embrace new technology, the report found, with twice as many women than men setting up around new technologies that have been available for less than a year.

Yet at the same time, they are less likely to believe that they have the skills to start a business and tend to launch their enterprises with an average of only £10,000, some £5,000 less than men.

Overall, however, a big entrepreneurial gender gap remains, with men twice as likely to be entrepreneurially active as women and four times as likely than women in the 18-24 age group.

The proportion of the female working population involved in setting up a business was 3.8 percent last year compared to 8.1 per cent of men.

And if women in the UK had similar rates of entrepreneurial activity as those int he U.S., this would create some 750,000 more businesses.

As a result, Prowess said, efforts to increase women's business ownership in the UK need to be increased, with a more sustained approach to policy required from government.

Work also remains to be done in tackling the entrenched barriers to start-up, such as under-capitalisation of ventures, low levels of self-confidence and the visibility of appropriate role models.

"Despite some notable progress made over the last three years in the growth of women's enterprise in the UK, we now need a much greater push at national and regional levels," says Prowess Executive Director, Erika Watson.

"The report highlights the importance of support and training that is as sustained and patient as women are themselves in their approach to business.

"If we're to release successfully the undoubted potential of women entrepreneurs, this also needs to be matched by a consistent and sustained policy commitment from Government."