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The Rise in Self-employed Women

Posted by Anna Falcke on

We @Wristees are an all female company.  We make collections of unique scarves and accessories which we sell throughout the UK.  Our team of wonderful home sewers produce our designs and make everything possible and worthwhile.

In response to #ChooseToChallenge for #IWD2021 we want to challenge 'The Rise in Self-employed Women'.  Now more than ever women are choosing to become their own bosses. As we praise the entrepreneurship of more women entering the world of business, for the majority of women, self-employment does not appear to be a ‘choice’ but a necessity driven by factors such as public sector job losses, the pay gap, or a need to accommodate caring responsibilities for children in search for more flexible working hours.

Women predominantly dominate the beauty, health and fitness industries in the UK. In the last 20 years, the number of companies owned by women has increased by 100% ( It’s such an incredible shift that this amount of women are choosing to take the leap into small businesses ownership! 

But are reasons for this uprise in self-employed women due to negative industry experiences? 

Finding the Path to Leadership

As there is a lack of representation in c-suite fields, women are choosing a quicker route to the path of leadership by becoming their own boss. Women are typically over-represented in support roles like administration, while men tend to be concentrated in operations and research and development—all opportunities that play critual key experiences for the lead up to CEO and board-level positions.

Self-employed women are poorly served by enterprise support measures and the tax and benefit system. ‘Gender-blind’ policy setting has led to an enterprise support infrastructure and incentives that are accessed primarily by men, despite women accounting for the majority of the newly self- employed. Moreover, the tax and benefits system poorly serves women, who are more likely to be working few hours and on low incomes. This situation is only likely to get worse with the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The Pay Gap & Ethnicity Gap

One reason for the rise in women going self-employed over the last 20 years, is the pay and ethnicity gap. Being freelance cuts the factors of equal pay, you pay yourself and have the freedom to set your own rates as a freelancer. This helps close these inequalities when it comes to pay- as you are your own boss!

Significant changes still need to be made for women and those in ethnic minority groups to achieve full economic parity on a global scale. The UK pay gap is STILL very real and resonates globally:

“The median hourly pay for those in the White ethnic group was £12.40 per hour compared with those in ethnic minority at £12.11 per hour – a pay gap of 2.3%, its narrowest level since 2012. The pay gap was at its largest in 2014, at 8.4%”


As reports suggest the pay gap is to be reviewed by the government in 2022. However the reporting system for the ethnicity pay gap to be reintroduced has not been spoken of and government reports ending in 2018.

Flexibility Stigma 

With the flexibility of a freelancer schedule, it’s possible women are feeling more comfortable as Mothers to shift their work pattern around their children. In an office space, this can have the perception of women ‘doing less’ and not contributing to the team, and they are more likely to face stigma than men regarding changing work hours. In hostile and masculinised working cultures, women could also be put of by negative experiences they have had in the office which leads into freelancing naturally making sense as their next move.

Where did it all start? 

Back in the early 1900s, Madam C.J. Walker, Coco Chanel, Olive Ann Beech, and Ma Perkins began as female entrepreneurs. These powerful women has to establish there own brands in the battle of success in the face of discrimination, unfair wages, and stigmas hauted female business owners. To this day, these businesses have survived with the legacy of some of earliest great femmepreneurs.

This developed during World War II and kicked off the beginning of female entrepreneurship. Women had been creating for years and centuries before of course-  but had not entered the workforce industries. Due to a more  progressive way of thinking, and the rise of feminism - female entrepreneurs finally began to be a widely accepted term! Although these female entrepreneurs serviced mostly female consumers, they were making great strides throughout the 1900’s. 

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