Entrepreneur figures are skewed against women

The UK government says women account for just 32 per cent of entrepreneurs, a figure Treasury exchequer secretary Robert Jenrick decries as “shocking”. It is launching a new review into the gap between men’s and women’s business start-up rates ( “Report to highlight barriers facing women in business”, September 22).

However, numerical measures of male and female entrepreneurship are crude and misleading as they obscure longstanding gendered differences in broader employment patterns. For example, the government commonly uses self-employment figures as a proxy for entrepreneurship. Men dominate the building and specialised-tool operating industries, where career paths often lead to self-employment. Almost a third of self-employed men, counted as “entrepreneurs”, are found in these trades. Taxi-drivers make up another 5 per cent. On the other hand women tend to work in the public sector, hospitality and retail trades, where the route to self-employment is less obvious.

Moreover, the current fervid devotion to boosting entrepreneurship numbers hides a more fundamental issue: what kinds of business ownership can provide women with secure, meaningful and long-term paths to income generation? Quality, not quantity, should be the key focus for the government’s new report.

Sarah Marks
Buttonbag, London E8, UK

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