Statistics show that if women were setting up new businesses at the same rate as men, we would have 150,000 more start-ups in the UK each year; and if the UK had the same level of entrepreneurship as the United States, there would be around 600,000 additional women-owned businesses, contributing an additional estimated £42bn each year.
That seems to be a significant step in the right direction.
The crucial question is, why has it taken so long for there to be serious focus on this? It’s not just about female entrepreneurs but also about women in business. The Lord David report has recommended that UK listed companies in the FTSE-100 should be aiming for a minimum of 25% female board member representation by 2015.
I run a networking company for women in business and I hear first-hand the trials and tribulations that women business owners face and as a female entrepreneur I have faced many of my own challenges.
Lack of confidence is a concept I hear a lot. It is a huge issue for women not only as business owners but in the corporate world too. Femininity is almost frowned upon, but being a women in business is hard. Unless you show masculine qualities you can often remain unheard and be dismissed or overlooked in favour of your male counterparts.
The cause of this lack of confidence can be traced back only a few generations; the fact that women were only given the vote in 1928 is a significant factor.
More recently, as the Olympics approach it has been shown that the sponsorship of women's elite sports in the UK amounted to just 0.5% of the total market between January 2010 and August, compared to 61.1% for men's sport over the same period. Mixed sports accounted for the remainder of the market.
The BBCs Sports Personality of the Year Awards in 2011 highlighted this lack of parity as there were no shortlisted sportswomen despite some significant and extraordinary achievements by women.
Women have battled for years and are still battling today to gain the equality in society that they deserve. This inequality has a direct correlation with confidence. It’s not only in business that women need more support and help, but this is the area in which the company I run Ladies at E11even can help.
Ladies at E11even provides an environment in which women can learn, share, support and inspire one another and do business.
There is nothing more rewarding that seeing female business owners flourish and their confidence gain due to joining our networking organisation.
The female-only environment provides the support, empathy, expertise and knowledge required to become successful. It is non-threatening with few egos, a place where women can be honest, open, build upon their self-belief and grow in confidence, which in turn helps their business to grow.
This business growth will have a knock-on effect. More women leaders will emerge, the number of women on boards will increase and women will have more equality in society from sport through to business. This in turn will filter down through the generations, down to the youth of today, encouraging young girls at school to have the confidence to try their hand at business.
This self-belief needs to be installed and nurtured at a young age to capitalise on this huge untapped market of potential female-led businesses.
Sarah Martin is the Founder of Ladies at 11 - the network for women who are serious about their businesses.