Women entrepreneurs counting the cost of Covid

self- employed woman

By Karis Nash

Self-employed women lost almost double the income of their male counterparts during the pandemic. But, despite this, they remain optimistic about the future of their business, new research suggests.

Analysis of more than 2,000 sole-traders, freelancers and micro-business owners showed that women lost 20 per cent of their income. In comparison, men lost 11 per cent.

The news comes after academics said that the female self-employed have been overlooked by government support schemes, with female take-up of the SEISS grant lower than male take-up.

Those who said the pandemic has effected their income lost an estimated 15 per cent. Demand for products and services was the main reason, according to research released by the business insurer, Superscript.

Women have also endured a greater mental toll than men. Over half of women surveyed say that their mental wellbeing has suffered due to the pandemic. 

Emma Maslin
Emma Maslin: self-employed have shown great resilience

Despite a difficult period, the self-employed are becoming more optimistic as covid restrictions lift. Female and male respondents showed similar optimism, with females being slightly more hopeful. 

Emma Maslin, money mentor and Founder of The Money Whisperer, said: “Like a lot of other self-employed women who took on a disproportionate amount of the home-schooling responsibilities during Lockdown, keeping a service-based business running wasn’t easy. I kept my initial motivation for working for myself – freedom – at the front of my mind, and pivoted my business. Now it is more successful than ever.

“The self-employed have shown great resilience over the past year, often with little or no financial support from the Government. Small business is the lifeblood of the UK economy and for a strong recovery, we need to see entrepreneurship supported from all angles going forward.

“Certainly, the availability of flexible business service offerings, including insurance, is critical to enable small businesses to recover, grow and then thrive.”

Cameron Shearer
Cameron Shearer: women have been disproportionately impacted

Cameron Shearer, CEO of Superscript, said: “Self-employed women have been disproportionately impacted, which illustrates that society still has a way to go to encourage female entrepreneurship.

“Nevertheless, now that the fog is clearing, it is inspiring to see the resilience and adaptability that the self-employed have shown. We are seeing more demand for business insurance as more people look to set up on their own. There will be a lot of opportunities in the next 12 months for small businesses to grow and thrive.”

The years 2016-2020 saw 276 companies go public on the Stock Exchange. Only 10 of them were led by a woman. To give that context – more men called Steve or Stephen led IPOs during that period than women.

There were also differences in the funds raised. On average, female CEOs raised £58.65m since 2016. The male average for the same time period is £69.49m.

Lead Analyst at AskTraders, Nigel Frith said: “Right now, we’re on course to potentially see a bumper year for IPOs, and with three giants of fintech coming up – Wise, Monzo and Starling – it’s a great time for investors. BrewDog is also creating a lot of interest.

“But this analysis also raises the question of women in business once again. Why aren’t more female-led businesses going public? And is there a reason why the ones that do are struggling to achieve the investment of their male counterparts? These are among the issues that the business community needs to address.”

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