30-something woman pictured as the typical entrepreneur
But perception is ahead of business reality, where women are underrepresented
Some out-dated stereotypes remain
8 March 2021, London: People now picture a woman when they consider the ‘archetypal entrepreneur’, according to a novel experiment into perceptions of business. But this positive attitude is yet to be reflected in reality.
In an implicit bias study - commissioned by digital bank Starling - 2,000 participants were shown an ‘identity parade’ of all ages and genders and asked to respond in less than three seconds which images could be entrepreneurs.
The image that most people (70%) agreed looked entrepreneurial was that of a young (30-something) woman, compared to a little over half of respondents (57%) indicating the same for a middle-aged man. Younger people were also more likely to see women as entrepreneurial.1
This contrasts with reality where the average business owner is a 51-year-old man, and where only 27% of businesses are owned by women.2
However, out-dated perceptions of older people in business were still evident in the study, with images of the over 50s being selected far less than average. And while all respondents judged older faces of both genders to be less ‘business-like’, profiles of older men were more likely to be considered entrepreneurial.3
Anne Boden, Chief Executive Officer at Starling Bank said:
“It’s encouraging to see that assumptions about business ownership are changing and that many rightly view women as entrepreneurial as men. At Starling, we’ve witnessed this first-hand with thousands of women of all ages launching businesses. But the reality now needs to catch up with perceptions, and the study also reminds us that some outdated views of women in business still very much exist.”
The research also showed the degree to which entrepreneurial ambition is strong (and growing) among women, with more than 1.5m women having started their own business in the last 12 months (6% of women) and nearly three times this number (17%) harbouring ambitions to start a business very soon.4 Self-believe in business skills among women is equal to that of men, too (31% and 32% respectively). And young women (18-34) are more likely to see themselves as running their own business than young men (48% vs 43%).
This progression is reflected in Starling account holder statistics, with the proportion of limited company and sole trader accounts held by women having grown steadily since 2018, from 18% to 32% of business accounts and 25% to 33% of sole trader accounts.
Judy Homer, who owns and runs Lincolnshire gardening company
“When we first started, we had lots of mixed reactions from customers with me being a woman - either they love it or they don’t! Usually older customers were shocked, often men. I’ve found they want to stop me digging or doing anything too physical. But most customers nowadays respect my work and especially the plant knowledge I can impart.”