IWD: How female entrepreneurs could add £250bn to UK economy

Riannon Palmer, founder and managing director of PR company Lem-uhn, is a passionate advocate of women in business. Here, Riannon, pictured above, talks about the importance of International Women’s Day which is on Friday, March 8

I fell into becoming a founder. Although I’d always had an entrepreneurial nature, I’d never planned to start a business. I hadn’t seen much representation of female entrepreneurs. As the saying goes, you need to see it to believe it. 

To my surprise, in May 2021, I founded Lem-uhn, the feel-good PR agency. I was burntout from the long hours and high stress load of the PR industry. I wanted to work for a better type of agency but couldn’t find one and Lem-uhn was born. 

There are significant barriers to equality for female entrepreneurs. But when we improve equality we improve society and the economy – it’s a win-win.

Why Female Entrepreneurs Need International Women’s Day

Some people think International Women’s Day is outdated, ‘women have achieved equality’. This is far from the truth. Only one in five (20%) new businesses are started by women. A record high. But when 51% of the UK population is female we are far from equal.

The percentages drop even lower when it comes to investment in female-run companies. For every £1 of venture capital investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p, all-male founder teams get 89p, and mixed-gender teams 10p.

Instead of putting support in place to improve investment in female-founded companies, the government is reducing it. New angel investor legislation in the UK will put more barriers in place for female founders to invest, often in female-founded companies.

Why We Need More Women In Business

We need women-run businesses to improve people’s lives and grow the economy. When women aren’t in the room, their needs aren’t represented. And we are failing them. In particular, research and innovation for female health lacks behind general and male healthcare. 

Female-run businesses also produce 2.5x the amount of revenue than male-led startups. In the US, for every dollar of investment raised, start-ups with at least one female founder produced 78 cents in revenue vs male-led start-ups with 31 cents. With equal access to funding and good support, female entrepreneurs could add £250 billion to the UK economy.

How Can We Support Women In Business?

To achieve equality in the business world, we need equality in all areas of our lives. Recently I spoke to a successful businesswoman who said it was a lie that ‘woman can have it all’. But what if we had better support? Women still do 60% more unpaid care. If we could access free care for children and elderly parents we would likely jump a few steps higher on the equality ladder.

Our lack of female representation is cyclical. We lack female founder representation meaning women and girls don’t see female founders and the cycle continues.

How many male founders can you name? Elon Musk, Steven Bartlett, Mark Zuckerberg, Duncan Bannatyne, the list goes on… And what about female founders, how many can you name? You may come up with a couple but not the endless list of male CEOs you named.

Let Me Introduce You To A Few Female Founders

Whitney Wolfe-Herd of Bumble

Whitney launched Bumble in 2014 to create a dating app which put women in control. Previously, she co-founded Tinder and was its Vice President of Marketing, however, she later left the company following sexual harassment. Whitney became the youngest woman to have taken a company public in America at the age of 31. 

Seeing the importance of creating a safe space to connect for more than only dating, she extended into business and friend connections. Whitney stepped down as CEO in November 2023 having built the company to a global brand with a multi-million dollar valuation.

Amelia Peckham, CEO and Co-founder of Cool Crutches & Walking Sticks

Following a life-altering quad bike accident at the age of 19, Amelia was inspired to set up Cool Crutches & Walking Sticks alongside her mother. The pair were determined to find a better solution to NHS crutches which caused Amelia further pain during her rehabilitation after she developed a spinal cord injury and long-term disability. 

While in recovery, Amelia suffered from severe hand blisters as a result of her crutches which led to delayed time-sensitive rehabilitation treatment. Cool Crutches & Walking Sticks was created to fill a space for practical and comfortable, yet stylish crutches and walking sticks to prevent the physical as well as mental limitations, pain and discomfort caused by normal walking aids.

Sophie Dundovic, Co-founder of Parasym

Sophie founded Parasym with her brother Nathan with a mission to increase the quality of life of 1 billion people. A passion for helping others drove Sophie’s work to find a way to achieve monumental impact, which narrowed their focus on bioelectric medicines, an emerging category. Bioelectric medicines were already showing significant clinical outcomes but were limited by invasive delivery methods. Knowing that an accessible, non-invasive bioelectric technology would be able to reach this scale, Sophie developed the ground-breaking company and its innovative device. 

What Can You Do Now

We need to support female-run businesses. We need to invest in them, shop with them, and shout about their brands. We also need to push for societal change. You can find me on LinkedIn if you’d like to discuss how you can support female entrepreneurs. If your a female founder looking for a like-minded communications partner to help you drive change, book a free PR Strategy Audit with me.