How female founders can navigate the gender funding gap

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an excellent reminder to take stock of how far we have come

How female founders can navigate the gender funding gap

IWD is celebrated globally commemorating the social, political and economic achievements of women. We tend to forget that it’s only been a 100ish years since women were first allowed to vote, attend tertiary education or take employment outside the home.

In 2022 women started over 151,000 companies in the UK, but are we doing enough to support these female entrepreneurs on this journey?

If we look at the statistics we see that in 2023, only 3.5% of UK equity funding was allocated for women-led businesses, men-led businesses received larger ticket items both in terms of loans and equity, which lead over 50% of women entrepreneurs to self-fund their businesses. If you’re like me and these statistics didn’t stop you from exchanging the 9to5 to the 24/7 rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship, let’s see how we can do better in navigating this gender funding gap. 

Getting the funding

When I decided to expand my business, I was very hopeful to participate in one of the many initiatives that are targeting female entrepreneurs including grants, credit lines, mentoring programs. I would advise you to start with research on specific initiatives targeting female entrepreneurs. You may find suitable initiatives where you meet the geographic, industry or other eligibility criteria.  While several of these initiatives are targeting established companies, there might be some that support startups. The UK Government, for instance, allocated £1 billion under its Startup Loan Scheme to support new businesses. 

I used to work with international financial institutions and was involved in setting up specific credit lines for women entrepreneurs through local partner banks. Though, these were not suitable for my business due to the lack of partner banks in my country, they might work for you. As a bonus, you get access to mentoring, training and networking opportunities. 

Are we still leaning-in?

If you are like me, at some point you have come across books on leadership written by women who advise you to be assertive, persistent and go for it. The culture of doing business changed over the past few years as working from home became standard for many of us. We no longer have to act like we have no families or responsibilities in the home. Similar to myself, many of my male business partners had to take important calls with children running loose in the house! I’m glad to see the attempts to accommodate the different needs of women business owners through the various initiatives that provide more flexibility and different funding modalities.  

Finding mentors 

I had an amazing mentor when I started my career. She taught me about the nitty-gritty of being an amazing social performance practitioner and let me take on projects that challenged me. When I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey, I had to look for a mentor who can teach me the things I need to succeed as an entrepreneur.

The right mentor can be a fantastic resource to provide guidance, inspiration and potentially access to their network. What is more important, they will likely have the experience to advise about the pros and cons of various types of funding available to you. 


A common stereotype about female entrepreneurs is that we are less financially literate, more shy when it comes to pitching and having a harder time to talk business. I did have to take a crash course in finance and investment so I can refine my pitch. Clearly, a great idea is the foundation of the business, but investors and lenders are more interested in financial projections. Whether you go for a loan or equity, you are also putting yourself in a better position to negotiate by speaking the language of investors. Whatever the skill you need to brush up on, find courses, readings and other materials online – or even better: ask your mentor! 

I have received other, more general advice about being persistent and resilient. It takes a lot of confidence to overcome the self-doubt and advocate for yourself and your business. It helps to be surrounded by a network of women who are in the same shoes. There are indeed, several organisations, accelerators and venture capital firms that specifically support women-led startups. These platforms can be amazing platforms to provide resources, mentorship and access to funding. They might also help with framing your pitch to effectively communicate your vision and show potential for growth.

My personal strategy is to address gender bias directly by challenging it and educating business partners about the importance of diversity and the value women bring to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Ildiko Almasi Simsic is a social development specialist and author of What Is A Social Impact?

Ildiko Almasi Simsic
Ildiko Almasi Simsic

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