Diversity, equity & inclusion

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship: The Story Continues

The Alison Rose Review into Female Entrepreneurship (“Rose Review”), first published in March 2019, demonstrated that up to £250 billion of new value (equivalent to 1 SME million businesses) could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men. Find out more from the Progress Report.

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 found 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 per cent more likely than men to struggle balancing business demands with family life. Recent research commissioned by NatWest in conjunction with YouGov* also showed that:

  • 1 in 10 female entrepreneurs plan to start a business in 2021;
  • 55% of female business leaders would not recommend starting a business in their sector in 2021;
  • Female entrepreneurs and business owners are 17% more likely to struggle balancing business with family life during the pandemic; and,
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of female business owners and entrepreneurs found managing their business stressful during the pandemic, compared with just over half of males (55%).

Against this difficult backdrop, good progress has been made this year in supporting female-led businesses. Through the Rose Review Board and the Investing in Women Council, working 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) has continued, to drive forward all eight initiatives proposed in the Review.

A central finding of the Rose Review was that the single biggest issue holding female entrepreneurs back is the lack of funding directed towards them. To address this and ensure that female-led businesses can play their part in the economic recovery by ultimately scaling and growing, new funding sources are coming on stream. These include the UK Enterprise Fund, an exciting partnership between the Business Growth Fund and Coutts. The UK Enterprise Fund will invest c.£50 million in diverse and high potential businesses alongside a support programme for female investees. NatWest has also announced an additional £1 billion in funding to help support female-led businesses in the UK recover from the coronavirus, this builds on the £1bn announced last January - the largest intervention by a UK lender focused specifically on female entrepreneurs. 

The Rose Review suggested eight initiatives that the private sector (and parts of the public sector) could take forward, including: increased funding; support from private investors; the expansion of mentoring and networking opportunities; and accelerating the rollout of entrepreneurial courses to schools and colleges. Two years on significant progress has been made in several key areas, including:

  • The Investing in Women Code (IWC) now has nearly 80 signatories, including most major UK banks and investment firms - the imminent publication of the first annual IWC Report by HMT will be an important step towards more gender transparency in funding.
  • Investor attitudes play a crucial role in unlocking capital for women owners. The Council for Investing in Female Entrepreneurs brings together leading investment firms and institutions to tackle barriers. Its three working groups have this year published best practice guidelines for Venture Capital firms (VCs), launched the Invest in Women digital advice hub and are developing guidelines for Limited Partners (LPs) and General Partners (GPs).
  • The need for family-friendly flexible products identified in the Rose Review became urgent for many more owners during the pandemic. Capital repayment holidays, fee waivers and government-backed Bounce Back loans have become core elements of the support offered by banks to all entrepreneurs. 
  • Free mentoring programmes to help women owners take their businesses to the next level are being offered by NatWest through Be the Business and by Santander with Women Ahead.
  • NatWest has announced that it aims to support 15,000 young women through its virtual entrepreneurial coaching platform Dream Bigger by summer this year. The bank is partnering with Facebook to reach young people through its platforms with a not-for-profit promotional campaign that will run from 1 – 12 March.


NatWest Group CEO, Alison Rose, commented: “Hope is on the horizon due to the rollout of the Coronavirus vaccines. This extraordinary effort has allowed light to shine at the end of what is a long and dark tunnel, but we cannot afford to ignore the economic and social legacy that the pandemic will leave in its wake - the ferocious demands placed on all businesses, coupled with the inevitable additional pressures placed on women as schools closed and an entire way of working was upended.

“Indeed, if women find themselves at even more of a professional disadvantage on the other side of this crisis, then we will have failed and be attempting to build an economic recovery that will be ignoring the huge potential represented by female entrepreneurs. The Rose Review and the interventions it identified are the best way of ensuring that all female entrepreneurs who want to start, scale and grow their business can do so and by extension the UK economy will benefit.”


Small Business Minister and Co-Chair of the Rose Review Board, Paul Scully added: “This government is absolutely committed to supporting entrepreneurship and that means opening up the world of business to everyone, regardless of gender or background.

“We will continue to work with NatWest to provide support, mentoring and inspiration to budding women entrepreneurs to level the playing field, turbocharge the British economy and build back better from the pandemic.”


The full Rose Review Progress Report can be accessed here:

Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship Update 2021 (PDF 7.6MB)



  • This article is for media use only and is not a financial promotion.
  • Female Entrepreneurship Funding - Eligibility criteria applies. Funding will be available to sole traders, partnerships and Limited Companies which are female led (Min 50% ownership by female or female in prominent position on Board e.g. MD, CEO,CFO,COO). Security and product fees may apply. For business use only.

*About the recent NatWest/YouGov research

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1066 adults of which 723 Male, 343 Female. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th-31st December 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of British business size.

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