Research from Bibby Financial Services (BFS) has found that women SME owners are more likely than men to suffer cashflow challenges, undermining their growth and ambitions.

Only half (49%) of women business owners report that their cashflow is stable and meets their needs, compared to a significantly higher two thirds (66%) of male respondents. In addition, four in ten (43%) female business leaders say they don’t have the cashflow they need to grow, compared to 29% of their male peers – highlighting a 14% gap.

These figures indicate a confidence gap between UK female and male business owners, when it comes to their company’s finances. This is particularly worrying following the interest rate rise last month, further impacting profit margins and cashflow capabilities. Nearly half (48%) of female business leaders surveyed said they were worried about not being able to pay back loans if interest rates rise further, compared to just under a third (32%) of their male counterparts.

Commenting on these findings, Bibby Financial Services chief strategic development officer, Lucile Flamand, said: “An uneven playing field of institutional barriers and entrenched stigmas have significant impact on female led businesses, and so it is entirely unsurprising that this is reflected in a confidence gap between women and men.

“The ugly truth is that, even in 2023, it’s still much harder for female entrepreneurs to access funding than it is for their male peers. In fact, women business owners receive less than half of the investment capital of their male counterparts, despite delivering twice as much revenue per dollar invested.”

It is well documented that women business owners find it harder to secure financing for their business, showing that this goes beyond an issue of confidence. Indeed, the 2023 Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship saw 50% of female business leaders report finding access to funding and investment hard in the past 12 months, compared to 40% of their male equivalents. This concurs with BFS’ own research – which saw 62% of female SME leaders say it’s harder to secure a business loan now compared to pre-pandemic, compared to 57% of male business leaders.

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Flamand concluded: “These stats serve as a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done, but female entrepreneurs remain motivated and determined, highlighted by the fact that last year a record 150,000 new firms were founded by women in the UK.

“Women business owners have so much potential to bring new ideas and exciting businesses into the world. So, now, it is more important than ever to make sure that we keep fighting the good fight – recognising both the opportunities and challenges for women-owned businesses, and ensuring that access to finance is not one of them.”