A new league table of female-led businesses compiled in a report from J.P. Morgan Private Bank has highlighted the strength of London's women business leaders - and their calls for further gender equality in equity investment and workplace set-ups.
The bank's first "top 200 female-powered businesses" report analysed the 6,085 high-growth companies in the UK that are founded, led or managed by women and ranked the top 200 companies based on growth in sales, headcount and valuation.
It revealed that last year British firms with significant female leadership raised a record £2.3 billion in equity investment despite the pandemic - up 41% on 2019.
London accounted for 37% of all UK female-powered businesses, the report found, while London-based Starling Bank topped the "power 200" list.
Last year businesses based in London secured 77% of the equity investment and 56% of the deals brought in by female-powered companies, the report found, with 532 deals and £1.77 billion of equity investment received.
Women hold key leadership positions at Starling, which was founded by tech entrepreneur Anne Boden. It grew revenues from £13,000 in 2016 to £13.4 million in 2019.
Pensions consolidator PensionBee, which floated last week with a market cap of around £365 million, also made the top 10.
The firm was co-founded by its chief executive, Romi Savova, who launched the company in 2014 after working in finance at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
But the new research, conducted in partnership with data firm Beauhurst, also showed that female business leaders still face challenges accessing capital, particularly at the earliest stages of their growth. Last year such companies saw a 27% fall in seed-stage equity deals compared to 2019, the report found.
Boden said: "There can often be specific challenges for female-powered businesses that want to grow rapidly and a lot of it starts with funding.
“In 2019, 2.7% of VC capital went to companies founded only by women. When women founders do get funded, expectations are different. They do not get given the permission or privilege to lose a billion every quarter.”
Boden also pointed out the lack of women in venture capital firms - saying that only 13% of all venture-capitalist decision-makers are women - and said this needs to change as an "example of what is possible".
Savova said that "while things are slowly improving" more work needs to be done to ensure women can easily return to workplaces "in full capacity" after having children.
She said: "I believe that the biggest obstacle to women in enterprise, and indeed the progress of women everywhere, is access to affordable childcare. Having experienced the childcare dilemma first hand, I’m convinced that the business community must do more to enable women to focus on their careers after having children.”
The report also cited reasons for the lack of seed-stage investment seen last year including investors moving to shore up existing companies in the face of the pandemic.
Another notable finding was that crowdfunding platforms accounted for three of the top five investors into female-powered companies last year.
Oliver Gregson, head of UK & Ireland for the J.P. Morgan Private Bank, said: "It’s no surprise that 2020 brought unique challenges to businesses owned or managed by women in the UK and, whilst last year was a record year for equity investment into female-powered businesses, this is still a fraction of the more than £13 billion invested in all UK growth companies last year."
The Top 10 Female-Powered Growth Businesses 2020, according to the report:
Starling Bank - London - Consumer banking and financial services
Bluebella - London - E-commerce
BW Legal - Yorks & Humber - Legal services
PensionBee - London - Financial services
TC BioPharm - Scotland - Pharmaceuticals
Mdgroup - South East - Outsourcing and shared services
Wise Investments - South East - Financial services
Lakeland Leisure Estates - North West - Leisure and entertainment outlets
Scrapco Metal Recycling - London - Metals, Waste management services
Numbermill - East England - Accountancy services, Business and professional services