Wolverhampton tops rankings as best place in England to be a female entrepreneur


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Wolverhampton tops rankings as best place in England to be a female entrepreneur

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  • SME lender iwoca publishes new study revealing the best towns and cities in England for women entrepreneurs. 
  • Wolverhampton, Newcastle and Darlington top the list - ranked using a range of criteria including female representation among the self-employed, growth in the number of small businesses, gender pay gap, and average childcare costs. 
  • This comes in support of the Prime Minister announcing a new taskforce last month to unlock private investment in female business leaders and make the UK the best place in the world to be a female founder.

Wolverhampton is ranked the best city to be a female entrepreneur in England, according to a new study by iwoca - one of Europe’s largest small business lenders. iwoca’s regional female founders research, which is published as the Government launches a new taskforce on female founders, ranks areas using ONS data on female representation among the self-employed workforce, childcare costs, gender pay gap, and small business growth.

The analysis finds that Wolverhampton, Newcastle, and Darlington are the top three areas in England for women entrepreneurs.Wolverhampton came in first place, scoring highly for having one of the smallest gender pay gaps in the country and the second-highest rate of business growth. 

The number of small businesses in Wolverhampton grew 15% from 2018 to 2023, while women from Wolverhampton earn an average of 16% less than men every week — compared to a countrywide average of 28%. The West Midlands town also boasts low childcare costs, averaging £5.00 per hour, and almost half (48%) of self-employed people in the city are women. 

Newcastle secures the second spot, with high levels of self-employed women alongside high levels of small business growth. Half (49%) of self-employed in this area are women and Newcastle’s small businesses grew in number by 9% between 2018-2023. Darlington comes in third place, with the lowest childcare costs out of the top three, at £4.75 per hour. 

Top ten dominated by the North 

Seven spots in the top ten are taken by towns and cities in the North. The North East leads the way with three areas (Newcastle, Darlington and Sunderland), followed by the North West (Chorley and Salford) and Yorkshire and the Humber (Kirklees and Sheffield). All towns and cities in the top ten boasted average childcare costs under £5 per hour, alongside high SME growth and some of the smallest gender pay gaps in the country. 

  1. Wolverhampton
  2. Newcastle upon Tyne
  3. Darlington
  4. Sunderland
  5. Norwich
  6. Stoke-on-Trent
  7. Kirklees
  8. Chorley
  9. Salford
  10. Sheffield

Government launches taskforce for female founders

iwoca’s analysis follows the Government launching a new taskforce and funding for female-founded businesses. The Government’s Invest in Women Taskforce aims to make the UK the best place in the world for female entrepreneurs and boost the proportion of equity capital investment going to all-female founder teams.

Dominique Williams, Founder and CEO of Reach and Unite Outreach and Empowerment Community Interest Company, based in Wolverhampton, said: “I’m proud to call Wolverhampton my home - having grown up, studied and started my business here. I know how much the city has to offer but also what it needs, and this inspired me to launch my own company.“I didn’t have any experience of running a business, but the support provided by the University of Wolverhampton turned my vision into reality. Its SPEED programme helped me understand the fundamentals, from developing a business plan and setting a budget to marketing and branding. The university even provided office space at the Science Park where I can meet and learn from other businesses.“My advice to anyone starting a business is to seek out the support available around you. Whether it’s from your local council or an entrepreneur’s network, these services can help to turn your passion into a successful business.”
Seema Desai, Chief Operating Officer at iwoca added: “Small businesses contribute so much to the growth of our economy, and it’s vital that any barriers preventing more women from starting and scaling their own companies are broken down. At iwoca, we are proud to have a completely gender-blind loan application process where our decision-making is based solely on business performance. Making sure the UK’s female entrepreneurs have the right environment to thrive is also key to developing the next generation of amazing British companies.”
Craig Tracey MP, Chair of the Women and Enterprise All Party Parliamentary Group, said “The future of female entrepreneurship is bright, but we need to do more to help women founders thrive. iwoca’s research celebrates the parts of England that are getting it right and it’s great that towns and cities from all corners of the country are represented in the top 25.”

Edward is iwoca's PR and Communications Manager. He's the storyteller behind many of our SME successes, sharing case studies, research, and insights on all things small businesses and finance

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