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UK diversity in business statistics 2022

We’ve collated the latest diversity in business statistics on UK businesses for 2022 including; women in business, ethnic minorities and more. Here's what we found.
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Today, more than ever, employers are choosing to prioritise diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the workplace. But just how diverse is the business landscape, and how has it changed over the last decade? We got investigating to bring you the latest business diversity statistics for 2022.

On this page, we’ll cover:

  • Women in business statistics

  • Women in leadership statistics

  • Women on boards statistics

  • The economic contribution of female-led businesses

  • UK areas with the most female founders

  • UK industries with the most female founders

  • Ethnic minorities in business statistics 

  • Ethnic diversity in the FTSE 100

  • Ethnic diversity in the FTSE 250

  • Barriers do ethnic minority small business owners face

Women in business statistics

In recent years the number of women entrepreneurs has been on the rise – particularly since 2000.

From the number of women deciding to register their own businesses to the industries and parts of the country with the most female entrepreneurs, we’ve looked at the data to understand what female entrepreneurship looks like in the 2020s.

Want to read more general business statistics? We’ve collated the latest facts and statistics on UK businesses including; sectors, size, employment, type age, owners, location, performance and investment.

How many women have considered starting a business?

According to a survey from Tide, one in five (18%) women considered starting a business in 2021. The same question was asked to men, and over a quarter (29%) said yes - meaning for every two women who’d thought about it, three men had.

If you are thinking of starting a business, visit our hub for lots of guides, tips and information.

When you are ready you can then compare business bank accounts, business credit cards, business loans, business savings accounts and business insurance to get the best deals.

Have you ever considered starting your own business?

A pie chart showing survey answers to the question, "Have you ever considered starting your own business?".

Of the women surveyed, one in five (20%) who said they had thought about running a business had taken the step to start their own business. Of those who had thought about starting their own business but hadn’t yet taken the plunge, the most common reason was concerns about savings or financial worries, while the second most common reason for women not starting a business was the risk involved.

What would prevent you from starting your own business?

A pie chart showing survey answers to the question, "What would prevent you from starting your own business?”.

How has the number of women in business changed over time?

Back in 1984, there were 646,000 self-employed women in the UK. In 2020, that number has more than doubled to 1.6 million. In the same period, the number of self-employed men increased by 47%, from 2.05 million to 3.02 million. 

Despite the gap slowly closing, there are still twice as many men working for themselves as women. 

Self-employed male vs female business statistics, 1984-2021

A line graph showing the number of self-employed males and females between 1984 and 2021

How many SMEs are led by women? 

In 2020, 16% of SME employers were led by women, up from 15% in 2019. This means the business was either led by one woman or by a management team with more females than males. Further to this, a quarter (24%) were “equally led”, meaning they had an equal number of men and women in their management teams. 

Comparatively, 11% of SME employers had women in the minority in the management team (the same as in 2019), and 45% were entirely male-led, down from 46% in 2019. 

However, not all businesswomen dream of running a large team, as some prefer to go it alone. In 2020, 21% of SMEs with no employees were led by women – 4% higher than a year earlier in 2019 and 5% higher than the percentage of women-led SMEs with employees.

Sector breakdown

Inevitably, women in business statistics vary depending on the sector. In 2020, just 6% of SME employers were led by women in the construction sector, compared to 37% in the health sector, 36% in the education sector, and 25% in the accommodation and food services. 

Similarly, among businesses with no employees, women-led businesses were also most likely in the health sector (61%). Women-led businesses were less common in transport and storage (5%), construction (8%), and information and communications (11%).

Women in leadership statistics

FTSE 100 vs FTSE 250

In 2021, the representation of women in Leadership (Combined Executive Committee & Direct Reports) in the FTSE 100 had increased to 32.5%, up from 30.6% in 2020. The total number of positions also increased by just over 400 to 9,415, and the average size of the Executive Committee & Direct Report population increased to 96 roles, up from 92 in 2020.

Similarly, representation also rose in the FTSE 250, from 28.5% in 2020 to 30.7% in 2021, but not quite as much as in the FTSE 100 list. The total number of roles increased by more than 400 in 2021 to 11,848. The average size of the Executive Committee remained unchanged at 10 roles, whereas the average size of the Direct Report population increased to 56, up from 53 in 2020.

Despite this, the appointment rate continues to be in favour of men. In the FTSE 100, two-thirds of new appointments went to men in 2021 (1,604) compared to just one-third of women (945). The same goes for the FTSE 250, where a similar number of new appointments were given to men versus women–62% (1,779) to men, compared to 38% (1,107) to women. 

In 2021, there were almost a thousand more women in Leadership roles in the FTSE 100 than in 2017, and more than 600 in the FTSE 250.

FTSE 100, Women in Leadership roles – 5-year overview

Updated 4 August 2022
FTSE 10020172018201920202021
Representation of women in leadership25.20%27%28.60%30.60%32.50%
Number of women in leadership20842397256127533062
Total leadership roles82668882897089909415
Number of all-male executive committees75643
Source: FTSE Women Leaders

FTSE 250, Women in leadership roles – 5-year overview

Updated 4 August 2022
FTSE 25020172018201920202021
Representation of women in leadership24%24.90%27.90%28.50%30.70%
Number of women in leadership29842964320332433638
Total leadership roles1241411923114911138211848
Number of all-male executive committees4745382413
Source: FTSE Women Leaders

Women on boards statistics

FTSE 100 vs FTSE 250

Almost half of all FTSE 100 companies had 40% or more women at the board table at the end of 2021–up from 36.2% at the beginning of the year. Of 1,058 directorships, 414 women were serving on FTSE 100 Boards. 

The number of women in most senior board roles continued to increase, with 16 women Chairs and 32 women occupying the Senior Independent Director role. This means that almost half of all FTSE 100 Boards in 2021 had a woman in either the Chair or Senior Independent Director roles. 

Similarly, the number of women in most senior board roles continued to increase on the FTSE 250 in 2021, with 32 women Chairs and 83 women occupying the Senior Independent Director role. 

However, the number of women CEOs remains flat on both lists. In fact, in the FTSE 250, 14 companies had more women than men on their boards in 2021, a further 20 had 50%, and 92 had 40% or more. Despite this, there were still six companies on the FTSE 250 with one lone woman around the table.

FTSE 100, Women on boards – 5-year overview

Updated 4 August 2022
FTSE 10020172018201920202021
Representation of women on boards27.70%30.20%32.40%36.20%39.10%
Number of women on boards294317341374414
Total directorships10631051105210321058
Number of all-male executive boards00000
Source: FTSE Women Leaders

FTSE 250, Women on boards – 5-year overview

Updated 4 August 2022
FTSE 25020172018201920202021
Representation of women in leadership22.80%24.90%29.60%33.20%36.80%
Number of women in leadership453497582652724
Total directorships19831992196819621970
Number of all-male executive boards85200
Source: FTSE Women Leaders

The number of companies in the FTSE 100 that have four or more women around the board table continues to grow each year. In 2021, more than 70% of FTSE 100 companies had at least four women around the board table. Only three companies had two or fewer women, compared to 42 companies with two or fewer women around the board table in 2015. 

The number of companies in the FTSE 250 with four or more women around the board table also continued to grow in 2021. So much so, that it is now considered the “norm” to have three or more women on the board. 

In 2011, there were 21 all-male executive boards in the FTSE 100, and 131 in the FTSE 250. The fact there are zero all-male executive boards in 2020 and 2021 shows significant progress in the fight for gender equality over the last decade.

A breakdown of the number of women board members in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies (2021)

A bar chart showing the number of women board members in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies in 2021.

What is the economic contribution of female-led businesses?

Women-led SMEs contribute around £85 billion to the annual economic output in the UK, which is 16% of the Gross Value Added by SMEs. 

More women than ever are starting new companies

According to the 2022 Rose Review, more women than ever are starting new companies, with 145,200 all-female-led incorporations in 2021, up from 56,200 in 2018. This represents an average year-on-year growth of 37.3%.

Whilst male-led companies still make up much of the landscape – 409,800 all-male-led incorporations in 2021, up from 193,400 in 2018 – women-led companies make up 20% of the total of new incorporations in 2021, up from 16% in 2018. This share has grown consistently over the last three years, despite setbacks caused by Covid-19.

Despite seeing very little progress over the past three years, the proportionate growth of female-led companies started overtaking male-led organisations in 2021. However, new companies remain almost three times as likely to be started by men than women.

 An infographic highlighting the number of new female-led companies in 2021. There were 145,000 - an increase of 89,000 from 2018.

Which areas in the UK have the most female founders?

Women comprise the greatest proportion of the self-employed population in Edinburgh and South East Scotland, with 39% of self-employed people being women, followed by South East England with 37%. However, these areas are still some way off from achieving gender equality when it comes to women starting their own businesses.

At the other end of the table, Northern Ireland and the West Midlands have the lowest rate of female self-employment, at 26% and 27% of self-employed women, respectively.

Female entrepreneur hotspots in the UK

Updated 4 August 2022
City/RegionSelf-employed maleSelf-employed female% of self-employed who are female
Edinburgh and South East Scotland553539
South East48628937.3
Rest of South West25714936.8
East Midlands21211835.8
Rest of Scotland764134.9
Rest of North East412234.8
North of Tyne Combined Authority351934.7
West of England Combined Authority482634.7
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority371934.2
Rest of Yorkshire and The Humber1799233.9
Aberdeen City Region211033.5
Glasgow City Region603033.3
Greater London Authority57828633.1
Sheffield City Region512432.5
Rest of West Midlands1527131.8
Rest of North West1436731.7
Rest of Wales542531.5
Rest of East of England29413331.1
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority612730.9
Cardiff Capital Region562530.9
Tees Valley Combined Authority241029.4
Greater Manchester Combined Authority1295429.4
Swansea Bay City Region361528.9
West Midlands Combined Authority1224527.2
Northern Ireland993526
Source: ONS

Which industries have the most female founders in the UK?

When looking at male and female self-employed businesses, there are clear differences between which industries are most popular with each gender. 

Just under three-quarters (74%) of those who are self-employed in health and social work were female in 2020. This was followed by industries such as ‘households as employers’, which includes jobs like cleaners, babysitters and secretaries (69%), and other service activities, such as hairdressers and beauticians (67%).

On the other hand, construction, transport and storage, and mining and quarry were industries dominated by men, with fewer than 10% of self-employed businesses in these sectors run by women.

The UK’s industries with the most female-founders

Updated 4 August 2022
IndustrySelf-employed maleSelf-employed female% of self-employed who are female
Health and social work90,000256,00074%
Households as employers9,00020,00069%
Other service activities109,000219,00067%
Prof, scientific, technical activ.393,000228,00066%
Education119,000163,00058%
Accommodation and food services90,00079,00047%
Admin and support services210,000172,00045%
Arts, entertainment and recreation146,000110,00043%
Real estate activities43,00032,00043%
Public admin and defence30,00021,00041%
Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles268,000131,00033%
Extraterritorial organisations2,0001,00033%
Manufacturing178,00055,00024%
Information and communication170,00054,00024%
Financial and insurance activities74,00024,00024%
Agriculture, forestry and fishing135,00036,00021%
Water supply, sewerage, waste10,0002,00017%
Mining and quarrying10,0001,0009%
Transport and storage298,00022,0007%
Construction905,00037,0004%
Electricity, gas, air cond supply9,00000%
Source: ONS

Ethnic minorities in business statistics 

Ethnic minority SME employers

In 2020, 6% of SME employers were minority ethnic group-led – a statistic that has seen no significant change since 2015. Of these businesses, business owners are most likely to be of Indian origin (28%) and own a micro business. Black Africans are the least likely ethnicity to own a minority ethnic group-led SMEs, taking up just 4% of the total.

A breakdown of the ethnicities of business leaders for minority ethnic group-led SME employers (2020)

 A bar chart showing the breakdown of the ethnicities of business leaders for micro, small, and medium sized businesses in the UK.

Minority ethnic group-led businesses are most likely to be in the information and communication sector (9%), as well as the accommodation and food sector (7%). On the other hand, they are less likely to have business in the primary (0%) or education (1%) sectors. 

Ethnic minority SMEs with no employees (self-employed)

Similarly to minority ethnic group-led business employers, companies with no employees also made up 6% of SMEs in 2020. Of these businesses, business owners are most likely to identify as “any other ethnic group”, taking up a quarter of all SMEs.

A breakdown of the ethnicities of business leaders for minority ethnic group-led SMEs with no employees (2020)

A bar chart showing the breakdown of the ethnicities of business leaders for self-employed UK SMEs.

Minority ethnic group-led SMEs without employees were most likely to be in the information and communications and health sectors (both 9%) and the wholesale and retail sectors (both 8%). They were least likely to be in the primary sectors, including agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining (1%).

Where are minority ethnic group-led SMEs most common in the UK?

In 2020, ethnic minority businesses were most common in England, with 6% of SMEs being based there, compared to 2% in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Regionally, ethnic minority businesses are most common in London (16%) in 2020. This is likely due to London being home to a large proportion of the UK’s ethnic minority population. In fact, almost half (46%) of Black entrepreneurs and 33% of Asian and Other Ethnic Minority entrepreneurs were found to be in Greater London, compared to 11% of White entrepreneurs.

Comparatively, ethnic minority businesses are least likely to be in the North East and South West, both taking up 1% of businesses. 

Ethnic diversity in the FTSE 100

There were 1,056 director positions in the FTSE 100 in 2021, with 164 seats held by a director from a minority ethnic group. This accounts for 16% of all positions and represents a 32% increase from 2020 director positions when there were 124 positions in the FTSE 100 held by a director from a minority ethnic group.

Of these 164 seats, three people from ethnic minorities held the position of Chair, six were CEOs, nine were CFOs, four were executive directors, and the other positions were non-executive directors. 

59 of the 155 minority ethnic directors in the FTSE 100 were UK citizens (38%). British minority ethnic directors held 66 director positions out of the 1,056 total directors in the FTSE 100. This represents 5.6% of all positions on the list.

These numbers demonstrate that the ethnic diversity in the FTSE 100 director positions is increasing, but there is still some way to go until equality is reached.

A breakdown of the number of directors from minority ethnic groups in the FTSE 100 (2020-2021)

Updated 4 August 2022
20212020
Total number of directors1,056998
Number of minority ethnic directors155118
Number of minority ethnic directorships164124
% of directorships held by minority ethnic directors16%12%
Source: EY

Of all Board positions held by directors from a minority ethnic group across the FTSE 100, 76 are held by women, comprising 49% of minority ethnic directors. In 2020, across the FTSE 100, 54 directorships were held by women, comprising 46% of minority ethnic director positions in the FTSE 100.

A breakdown of the number of minority ethnic female directors in the FTSE 100 (2020-2021)

A table showing the breakdown of the number of female directors from minority ethnic groups in the FTSE 100.

Ethnic diversity in the FTSE 250

In the FTSE 250, there are a total of 1,849 director positions, with 178 (10%) held by a director from a minority ethnic group. Of these 178 seats, five people from a minority ethnic group held the position of Chair, 16 were CEOs, 13 were CFOs, and the other positions were non-executive directors.

76 of the 169 directors from a minority ethnic group in the FTSE 250 were UK citizens (45%). British minority ethnic group directors held 82 FTSE 250 director positions out of the 1,849 total director positions available in the FTSE 250 (4.4%).

A breakdown of the number of minority ethnic directors in the FTSE 250 (2021)

A bar chart showing the number of directors from minority ethnic groups in the FTSE 250.

Of all Board positions held by minority ethnic directors, across the FTSE 250 73 (44%) were held by women. 

A breakdown of the number of minority ethnic female directors in the FTSE 250 (2021)

A pie chart showing the number of directors from minority ethnic groups in the FTSE 250, and how many of those are women.

Ethnic minorities in the UK are more entrepreneurial 

Ethnic minorities in the UK are consistently more entrepreneurial than the White population. For example, among those thinking about going into business, the rate for ethnic minority groups is around twice that of the White population; the difference is significantly higher when comparing the Black community (23%) and the White population (7%).

The highest entrepreneurial activity rate – which measures involvement in setting up a new venture or running a young one under 42 months – was in the South East, East of England, and London.

In contrast, the three regions with the lowest levels of enterprise activity were the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, and the North East. These regions had below-average non-White enterprise activity, especially the North East’s Black community. 

What barriers do ethnic minority small business owners face?

Ethnic minority entrepreneurs, particularly Black entrepreneurs, continue to face multiple barriers to achieving their full potential, including discrimination throughout the entrepreneurial journey, restricting their access to external finance, wider markets, business support and other resources needed to succeed.

In a 2020 survey, 58% of aspiring Indian entrepreneurs stopped developing their business idea because of difficulties getting finance. The same goes for nearly half (42%) of aspiring Asian and Other Ethnic Minority entrepreneurs, 40% of Other White, and 39% of Black aspiring entrepreneurs, compared to a quarter (25%) of White British aspiring entrepreneurs. Stopping due to finance was most common among those from an Indian background.

This is backed up by statistics of closed businesses of ethnic minority groups, where one in five Black ex-business owners closed their business due to difficulties getting finance. This figure was around one in 20 for Asian and Other Ethnic Minority and White ex-business owners. Research has shown that Black-run businesses are more than four times more likely to be denied a business loan outright than White-run businesses; however, this is said to be primarily due to businesses’ credit characteristics and not discrimination.

The feeling of discrimination among ethnic minority business owners is also emphasised in a 2021 study of aspiring and established Black entrepreneurs, where more than half (53%) of respondents reported experiencing racism or discrimination, and 84% perceived racism as a potential barrier to their entrepreneurial efforts.

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About James Andrews

James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments - picking up a series of awards for his journalism along the way.

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