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The Alison Rose Review

NatWest CEO Alison Rose discusses the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on female business owners and shares the progress that has been made since the 2019 Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship.

Last updated: 19 Apr 2021 4 min read

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This has been a year like no other in living memory. When the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship was published in March 2019, we could not have anticipated what lay ahead. Given the challenges we face to build back stronger, the Rose Review ambition to increase the number of successful female entrepreneurs is even more relevant now. Our economic recovery desperately needs the untapped potential that women-led businesses represent: equivalent to more than 1m missing SME businesses and £250bn of additional value for the UK economy.

The pandemic has compounded the difficulties and expanded the obstacles faced by many women in starting, continuing and scaling their business. Recent research by NatWest says that nearly three quarters (77%) of female business owners found managing their business in the pandemic stressful, compared to 55% of male entrepreneurs. Women are also 17% more likely than men to struggle balancing business demands with family life.

Against this difficult backdrop, we have made good progress. Through the Rose Review Board and the Investing in Women Council, we have continued to work in partnership with a variety of organisations in business, finance and the third sector, and with HM Treasury (HMT) and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to drive forward all eight initiatives proposed in the Review.

Some key highlights include:

  • Promoting transparency: The Investing in Women Code (IiWC) now has 100 signatories, including most major UK banks and investment firms. We look forward to the imminent publication of the first annual IiWC report by HM Treasury as an important step towards more gender transparency in funding. Inspired by the IiWC, the World Bank is creating a global code to empower female entrepreneurs worldwide. You can read the IiWC report below.
  • Launching new investment vehicles: The pandemic triggered exceptionally high demand for financial support from women-led businesses. NatWest has announced a further £1bn of ring-fenced debt funding for female entrepreneurs, doubling the £1bn provided last year. In partnership with the Business Growth Fund, Coutts is launching the UK Enterprise Fund to invest in diverse and high potential businesses and provide a support programme for female investees.
  • Expanding mentorship and networking: The Council for Investing in Female Entrepreneurs (CIFE), together with NatWest and other leading institutions and government organisations, has launched the Invest in Women Hub. The Hub aims to reach more female entrepreneurs to share knowledge and improve access for those in need of funding and support, and create direct opportunities to share expertise, networks and inspiration. Free mentoring programmes to help women business owners take their businesses to the next level are also being offered by NatWest through Be the Business and by Santander with Women Ahead.

The eight initiatives highlighted in the Rose Review are just the starting platform for the sustained action required to achieve our ambition of increasing the number of female-owned businesses by half by 2030. All of us, from ministers to employers to investors, have a duty to ensure that further pain isn’t felt disproportionately by women and that anyone who retains an ambition to start or grow a business is helped with targeted and innovative assistance. I am determined that we at the Rose Review will play our part. You can download the latest progress report, and the original report, below.

Access to investment

The Rose Review found that only 13% of senior people on UK investment teams are women, and almost half (48%) of investment teams have no women at all.

To help address this, the Rose Review Council has published Guidance And Best Practice: Examples For VCs And Institutional Investors, a document created by leading investors within the venture community as a resource for institutional and other investors who wish to maximise access to diverse deal flow, and manage their companies and portfolios to optimise return. You can download the guidance below.

Overcoming barriers

The Rose Review identified that for female entrepreneurs with children, family care responsibilities are the number one barrier to further business success, with 46% of female parent entrepreneurs identifying it as a “very important” or “important” barrier.

In October 2019 the bank published its research, Supporting Business Through Family Care Responsibilities, on what financial products entrepreneurs with family care responsibilities (irrespective of gender) would find most useful. We hope this will encourage financial institutions to offer greater flexibility around lending for entrepreneurs. You can download this research at the bottom of the page.

The Alison Rose Review: Progress Report March 2021Guidance And Best Practice: Examples For VCs And Institutional InvestorsThe Alison Rose Review: Progress Report March 2020The Alison Rose Review 2019The Alison Rose Review: infographicSupporting business through family care responsibilities
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