How Female Founders Incubator can help more women start businesses - Deb Hetherington

You’ve read the headlines, you’ve seen the reports. Female startup founders are in short supply. But why?

There are many suggestions as to why; women are risk averse so don’t suit the entrepreneurial world, women are too busy raising families, or my favourite – it’s a man’s world.

The landscape of business founders across the UK hasn’t changed drastically in the past 50 years. Although Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) have become more prevalent as a topic of conversation, tangible actions and results are less apparent.

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According to company insight platform Crunchbase, only 12 per cent of Unicorns in 2021 had female founders or co-founders.

More women are being encouraged to start their own businesses.More women are being encouraged to start their own businesses.
More women are being encouraged to start their own businesses.

Closer to home in the UK, only four per cent of the fastest growing tech startups are founded by women. But these stats are at odds with the success of companies founded or led by females. Female-led businesses are proven time and time again to generate higher revenues, outperform their male counterparts, and have significantly lower failure rates, according to recent MIT research.

The fact that the lack of female founders is being talked about is obviously a good thing, but the problem with conversation is that very little actually gets done.

I’ve sat around enough tables, discussing the importance of EDI to know that we all have the very best intentions, but the bottom line is we either a) don’t know where to start or b) don’t have the resource or time to commit to making the difference at grass roots to level the playing field.

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We live in a commercially driven world, where results are crucial and the speed at which those results are achieved is often even more so.

So whose responsibility is it to take the time to nurture and support female founders? Who should be creating an effective and encouraging environment to allow female founders to step out of their comfort zones, into the world of business, and succeed? For me, the answer is all of us.

In order to support the next generation of female founders, leaders and entrepreneurs, we all have a part to play. From local councils, successful founders, large corporates, and educators. That’s why we have recently designed a Female Founders Incubator, launching during Leeds Digital Festival in September at the home of tech in Leeds, Platform.

The programme is supported by successful founders and CEOs who will mentor five early stage female founders throughout the six month incubation period including award winning CEO’s Zandra Moore and Anna Sutton from local scaling tech companies.

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Bruntwood SciTech will facilitate the programme, coordinating all activity and providing free desk space to the successful entrepreneurs.

Investors argue there aren’t enough female founders to invest in, central government sings a similar tune, but all entities are looking for fully formed successful female founders. This is the problem, we need to go back several steps to design a pipeline, a defined pathway for female founders to try, and fail, and to try again.

We want to get to a point where there is no need for the word ‘female’ in front of ‘founder’, but the current drastically low representation means we need such a focus. Supporting the future diversity of entrepreneurialism is important to all of us, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because innovation and creativity are not an exclusive right.

In order for technology and digital solutions to be fit for society, those designing it and creating these solutions need to be representative of society.

When they are, innovation will jump to the next level, just watch.

Deb Hetherington is Head of innovation for Bruntwood SciTech