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Women in business: The leading UK local authorities for female entrepreneurs

Despite the challenging current climate for new companies, the number of women starting businesses in the UK is at an all-time high.

As part of their new diversity in business statistics report, the business finance team at were eager to discover the UK’s local authorities with the most opportunities for female entrepreneurs. They did this by analysing several factors, including the number of self-employed women in each area, as well as the challenges they have to overcome.

The 10 UK districts with the most opportunities for FEMtrepreneurs:

#Local authoritySelf-employment score /10Median pay gap score /10Unemployment score /10Final score /10
2.North Devon9.848.887.968.89
4.South Oxfordshire6.889.659.098.54
5.Perth and Kinross7.298.588.638.17
7.West Oxfordshire9.385.168.937.82
9.South Lakeland4.898.3210.007.74

For the unemployment & pay gap categories higher scores mean less unemployment/pay gap

*For the full data sheet and a graphic illustrating the top 10, click here.

At the top of the UK rankings is Uttlesford in Essex. The local authority rated highly in all three categories; self-employment (9.89/10), pay gap (9.24/10) and unemployment (9.24/10), with fewer than 1% of women categorised as unemployed (0.91%). This results in an overall score of 9.46/10.

North Devon places second with a final rating of 8.89 out of 10. More than 12.7% of women in ‘England’s Adventure Coast’ are self-employed (9.84/10), while the locality also achieves strong scores in the pay gap (8.88/10) and unemployment (7.96/10) categories.

Completing the top three is Babergh, with an overall score of 8.64 out of 10. The Suffolk district achieved its highest rating in the pay gap category (9.90/10), with women earning 10% more than men on average. The district’s performance in unemployment (8.37/10) and self-employment (7.65/10) dipped slightly but were still very high overall.

In fifth is Perth & Kinross, the best performing Scottish local authority in the study. With a final score of 8.17 out of 10, the local authority scored highest in unemployment (8.63/10) and pay gap (8.58/10), while still rating respectably in self-employment (7.29/10). 

The 5 most challenging UK districts for female business owners

#Local authoritySelf-employment score /10Median pay gap score /10Unemployment score /10Final score /10
2.North-East Lincolnshire1.
3.South Tyneside1.322.151.431.63
5.Newcastle Upon Tyne1.371.482.201.68

The majority of the UK’s most demanding local authorities for female entrepreneurs are located in Northern England.

Doncaster is the most challenging with a final score of 1.21/10. Self-employment (0.05/10) is one of the poorest in the entire study, while pay gap (1.54/10) and unemployment (2.05/10) are also towards the bottom of the scale.

The second most demanding UK district for women-owned businesses is North-east Lincolnshire, with an overall rating of 1.50/10. South Tyneside is third with an average rating of 1.63/10.

Newcastle Upon Tyne (1.68/10) is in fifth, and is the third local authority from North-East of England in the bottom five. 

To summarise the findings, James Andrews, senior personal finance expert, said:

“It has been a difficult few years for entrepreneurship in the UK, with the pandemic and cost of living crisis. That can be made worse for women, with challenges beyond the economy holding you back. This is most apparent in the North of England, where women face higher barriers than elsewhere in the UK.

“On the other hand, some local authorities, particularly in the South of England & Wales, appear to be a hotbed of female enterprise. So there are examples that could be replicated elsewhere in the UK to help more women achieve success across the nation.”

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