LITTLE wonder there are so few female entrepreneurs heading big businesses when they receive just nine per cent of the investment put into British start-ups.

The statistic, reported by Barclays and the Entrepreneurs Network, draws attention to an entrenched culture that gives preferential treatment to businesses run by men. Researchers also revealed that male entrepreneurs are 86 per cent more likely than their female counterparts to raise venture capital and 56 per cent more likely to secure angel investment.

Rebecca Pick, pictured above, believes a lack of female investors is a contributing factor to the problem. “I think we all have a tendency to hire similar people to ourselves, be friends with people similar to ourselves and also invest in people similar to ourselves as an implicit bias. This reflects that only one in 20 angel investors are female,” said Pick, who invented a wearable alarm that would send the police to the user’s exact location. Pick Protection raised an initial small round of investment before raising £744k to grow the business.

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“I think more females need to become angel investors to open up the opportunities for females to raise investment to start with, then when women see the opportunities they will be more encouraged to start a venture themselves. I think people’s views are changing, whilst the numbers are far from equal right now I think in the next 20 years it will be a very different picture.”

Polly Van Alstyne is CEO of Scottish Bioenergy, a company that makes a natural blue colourant, which can be used to replace artificial Brilliant Blue in food and drink. She is in the middle of a £500k funding round for initial scale-up.

Van Alstyne compares two recent pitches, one to a room of mostly male investors and the other to a room of female investors. The latter was a positive, noisy, supportive environment with a really good vibe and energy, which made her feel good about what she was doing. The male group felt aggressive and negative about the company before she even started.

“It felt like we needed to prove why we were worthy of their attention. Being an entrepreneur is hard. It requires a lot of bravery to go out on one’s own and try something new and risky. It can be very hard not to feel completely demoralised when walking into a room full of negativity and aggression,” she said.

“Unfortunately I think there is still a prevalent sexism in business and women are perhaps seen as not as capable in leading a business to a successful outcome.

“Or that we’re perceived as unattractively aggressive rather than confident or assertive. And of course this impacts our abilities to raise money, especially from groups that may be mostly male. But secondly, possibly we lack the confidence to put the higher valuation on the business and sell the big vision.”

Michelle Rodger is a communications consultant