Female leaders are on track for 2019, how about everyone else?

Nov 20, 2018 / Blog

The ScaleUp Institute this week held its Annual ScaleUp Review 2018 (downloadable here). While the outlook is very positive for British scaling companies, more must be done to support female-led scale-ups. With the ScaleUp Institute’s findings in mind, we reflected on our Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series and look to how our next event will help shift things up a gear.

For many, 2018 has marked itself as the year of the female leader. While it’s a moniker that owes much to some remarkable results in the recent US midterm elections, the world of business shares a similar, albeit cautious, optimism to that of politics. The number of female-led, scaling businesses in the UK is, promisingly, on the up. There is a gathering wave of strong sentiment to get behind our ambitious female leaders, but there is still a long way to go in offering them the support and advice they need.

The next Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series event is on 24 April 2019 and is entitled ‘On Track’

We’ve previously shown that a funding gap is at the heart of the problem, hence why we titled the finnCap Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series meeting in September ‘Mind the Gap’. At this meeting, we subsequently revealed just how much of an impact it is still having; more than half of women-led companies have no external funding at all, compared with 30% of male-led companies.

It’s no secret that companies with high growth potential, that fail to secure early funding, find it exceptionally hard to scale.

£1 trillion in pounds in turnover and creating jobs for 3.6 million people

Our next Female Leaders Series event from finnCap Ambition Nation – to be held in Central London on 24 April 2019 – will discuss how business leaders can know that their growth is on track. What are those key indicators that say they’re ready to take their growth to that crucial next level?

Incomparable ambition

Ambitious female entrepreneurs are all too aware that the funding gap is holding their companies back – three times as many women to men say that access to funding is their biggest barrier to growth. And as we've previously written, there is enormous untapped growth potential amongst our women-led companies.

And yet, as Joanna Santinon, lead of EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year programme, pointed out at our Ambition Nation: Female Leaders conference, while the gap is undeniably discouraging, it does nothing to dampen the spirit.

Watch the Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series conference here.

The tenacity and ambition of female CEOs outperforms that of men by some margin. Around 33% of female-led companies are targeting growth rates of more than 15% over the next year, with vested ambitions to take the majority market share of their area of industry. Compare that with just 5% of their male counterparts.

The ambition is as hungry as it can be and the opportunities vast, so what about the support to bring more to the fore?

We attended the ScaleUp Institute's Annual ScaleUp Review this week. The latest figures into the UK scale-up landscape suggest that British business backers are more and more getting behind our scaling companies, with a total of 35,201 scale-ups in the UK in 2016, compared with 27,490 two years prior. Scale-ups are growing by more than 20% per annum by employee growth and turnover growth. They’re accountable for a staggering £1 trillion in pounds in turnover and creating jobs for 3.6 million people.

Attitude shift towards scale-ups

More scale-ups are getting the growth opportunities and finance they need; ‘Access to finance’ was relegated from 1st to 6th place in the rankings of the biggest barriers to growth, which, pointed out Marcus Stuttard, Head of AIM at the London Stock Exchange, is telling about how attitude towards funding scale-ups has generally shifted in the last 12 months.

But, as above-mentioned, this sentiment is not shared by scale-up companies run by women. And while the numbers are up, the proportion of visible, female-led, scale-up companies in the UK has remained relatively stagnant at 4%.

33% of female-led companies are targeting growth rates of more than 15%. Compare that with just 5% of their male counterparts.

More sophisticated support

Still, the ScaleUp Review heard that a big part of the reason the scale-up numbers are up in general is due to the increased prevalence of support networks. 219 scale-up support programmes have emerged of late, focusing on helping leaders with accessing markets and the right finance, securing talent, teaching about leadership and improving infrastructure, all of which is geared towards overcoming the challenges to drive economic growth and higher productivity with the ecosystem.

More than half of women-led companies have no external funding at all

Speaking on a panel discussion on the power of talent at the Review, finnCap CEO Sam Smith explained that through Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series, we’ve seen first-hand the value of offering the right advice and a focused community where women in business can speak freely with each other, as well as creating more role models for future female entrepreneurs. Speaking on the same panel, Sahar Hashemi OBE, Co-Chair of the ScaleUp Taskforce, said the Taskforce had been witnessing more and more the natural formation of peer-to-peer support networks, especially for female founders.

The point is, the foundation has been laid and the hunger is there. If we want to accelerate the scaling of female-led companies, to reflect that of the wider scale-up community, we must kick things up a gear.

The support networks that exist and that have brought us to the ‘cautiously optimistic’ position we occupy today have been stellar in educating and inspiring female leaders to keep pushing to be bigger.

The next stage is a need to focus that education on how to scale and follow through on that ambition. What are the key indicators that highlight your growth is on track for next round of funding? How do you negotiate the different potential funding routes that supercharge growth? The next Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series event is on 24 April 2019 and is entitled ‘On Track’ for exactly these reasons.

To register your interest in the next Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series event, to let us know about a subject you'd like to see discussed, or a speaker you'd like to see on our panels, please email events@finncap.com and we will be in touch.