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Women in business – The leading UK local authorities for female entrepreneurs

Despite the challenging current climate for new companies, the number of women starting businesses in the UK is at an all-time high.

As part of their new diversity in business statistics report, the business finance team at money.co.uk were eager to discover the UK’s local authorities with the most opportunities for female entrepreneurs. They did this by analysing several factors, including the number of self-employed women in each area, as well as the challenges they have to overcome.

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The 10 UK districts with the most opportunities for FEMtrepreneurs:

# Local authority Self-employment score /10 Median pay gap score /10 Unemployment score /10 Final score /10
1. Uttlesford 9.89 9.24 9.24 9.46
2. North Devon 9.84 8.88 7.96 8.89
3. Babergh 7.65 9.90 8.37 8.64
4. South Oxfordshire 6.88 9.65 9.09 8.54
5. Perth and Kinross 7.29 8.58 8.63 8.17
6. Powys 9.23 7.40 7.45 8.03
7. West Oxfordshire 9.38 5.16 8.93 7.82
8. Mendip 8.92 8.73 5.67 7.77
9. South Lakeland 4.89 8.32 10.00 7.74
10. Cotswold 9.54 4.14 9.39 7.69

For the unemployment & pay gap categories higher scores mean less unemployment/pay gap

*For the full data sheet and a graphic illustrating the top 10, click here.

At the top of the UK rankings is Uttlesford in Essex. The local authority rated highly in all three categories; self-employment (9.89/10), pay gap (9.24/10) and unemployment (9.24/10), with fewer than 1% of women categorised as unemployed (0.91%). This results in an overall score of 9.46/10.

North Devon places second with a final rating of 8.89 out of 10. More than 12.7% of women in ‘England’s Adventure Coast’ are self-employed (9.84/10), while the locality also achieves strong scores in the pay gap (8.88/10) and unemployment (7.96/10) categories.

Completing the top three is Babergh, with an overall score of 8.64 out of 10. The Suffolk district achieved its highest rating in the pay gap category (9.90/10), with women earning 10% more than men on average. The district’s performance in unemployment (8.37/10) and self-employment (7.65/10) dipped slightly but were still very high overall.

In fifth is Perth & Kinross, the best performing Scottish local authority in the study. With a final score of 8.17 out of 10, the local authority scored highest in unemployment (8.63/10) and pay gap (8.58/10), while still rating respectably in self-employment (7.29/10).

The 5 most challenging UK districts for female business owners

# Local authority Self-employment score /10 Median pay gap score /10 Unemployment score /10 Final score /10
1. Doncaster 0.05 1.54 2.05 1.21
2. North-East Lincolnshire 1.02 0.26 3.22 1.50
3. South Tyneside 1.32 2.15 1.43 1.63
4. Wolverhampton 0.91 3.88 0.21 1.67
5. Newcastle Upon Tyne 1.37 1.48 2.20 1.68

The majority of the UK’s most demanding local authorities for female entrepreneurs are located in Northern England.

Doncaster is the most challenging with a final score of 1.21/10. Self-employment (0.05/10) is one of the poorest in the entire study, while pay gap (1.54/10) and unemployment (2.05/10) are also towards the bottom of the scale.

The second most demanding UK district for women-owned businesses is North-east Lincolnshire, with an overall rating of 1.50/10. South Tyneside is third with an average rating of 1.63/10.

Newcastle Upon Tyne (1.68/10) is in fifth, and is the third local authority from North-East of England in the bottom five.

To summarise the findings, James Andrews, senior personal finance expert, said: It has been a difficult few years for entrepreneurship in the UK, with the pandemic and cost of living crisis. That can be made worse for women, with challenges beyond the economy holding you back. This is most apparent in the North of England, where women face higher barriers than elsewhere in the UK.

“On the other hand, some local authorities, particularly in the South of England & Wales, appear to be a hotbed of female enterprise. So there are examples that could be replicated elsewhere in the UK to help more women achieve success across the nation.”


  • The creators of the diversity in business statistics page set out to discover which UK local authority had the most opportunities for female-owned businesses.
  • NOMIS (a data service provided by ONS) was used to measure the number of female business owners in each district. By combining these counts with female population statistics from ONS, the percentage of self-employed women in each local authority was calculated.
    • East, north and south Dorset were combined to form ‘Dorset’. Similarly; ‘Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’ were measured as a single district.
  • The experts collected the number of unemployed women from ONS (data released 19/07/2022), and compared it to the total female population to calculate the % of unemployment.
  • Gender pay gap median % figures were also collected from ONS (2021).
  • The experts applied the PERCENTRANK formula across all three variables, and were able to determine an overall rating for each local authority.
    • The pay gap and unemployment ratings were inverted – so a smaller pay gap and lower unemployment rate score higher.
  • Some local authorities were excluded due to lack of data.
    • Additionally, Northern Ireland was excluded as data was only available for Belfast.

*All data was collected on 04/08/2022 and correct on this date.

If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

Ian | Journalistic.org

Tel: 0113 880 0948 | Email: ian@journalistic.org

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