Today women account for just one third of the self-employed population. But that number is growing: 80% of the newly self-employed between 2008 and 2011 were women.
To celebrate International Women’s Day today, here are six trailblazing examples of female entrepreneurs championing the ever-growing stature of women in business.
Dame Carolyn Julia McCall
Dame Caroline is one of the UK’s most senior business women and Chief Executive of low-cost airline EasyJet.
Born in India to a British mother and Irish father, she studied history and politics at the University of Kent and later trained to become a teacher. Her atypical journey into business began with a job at Kevin Kelly’s business magazine, followed by a researcher role at the Guardian Media Group from which she rose through the ranks to become the company’s CEO in 2006. She was appointed to the helm of EasyJet in 2010 and remains one of just five female CEOs of a FTSE 100 Index company.
She has been regularly named as one of the most powerful business women in Britain and in 2016 was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the Queen's 2016 New Year honours list.
Martha Lane Fox, Baroness of Soho
She's co-founder of lastminute.com, board member of Channel 4, mydeco.com, and Marks & Spencer, as well as Baroness of Soho and chancellor of the Open University.
As well as her many business interests Baroness Lane Fox also works as a human rights, women's rights, and social justice advocate being a patron of legal action charity Reprieve, and the charity Camfed which fights HIV/AIDS and poverty in Africa.
She is not just a example for female entrepreneurs, or even entrepreneurs in general, but for anyone who wishes to achieve something worthwhile with their life, and pay-back the benefits of success to others.
You can keep up to date with Martha on Twitter.
You may not have heard of Lesley, or indeed FanDuel which she co-founded in 2009 alongside four others, but nonetheless it is an enormously successful fantasy sports startup and is now the world’s largest business of its type, and a household name in the US.
Lesley is currently the marketing director of FanDuel, and has made her way onto our list, not only because of her role in building a giant of the gaming world, but because of the incredibly male-dominated industry in which she has done it.
The Edinburgh-based Eccles has helped to lead FanDuel from an idea in a friend's backyard to a digital company with over one million active paying users and over $2bn in prize payouts in 2015.
With continued rapid growth it is likely that Lesley will become one of the UK most prominent female tech entrepreneurs in the coming years.
Follow Lesley on Twitter
Octavia Goredema MBE
Octavia is a social entrepreneur who was awarded an MBE in 2012 for her services to supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship amongst the black female population, a demographic which is significantly under represented when it comes to self-employment.
She is the founder of the Twenty Ten Club, a social enterprise which showcases the achievements of black female business role models in the hope of inspiring the next generation of black women entrepreneurs.
One of the organisation’s most recent programmes is the ‘Interview an Entrepreneur’ school program which gives students the opportunity to interview black female business role models about their experiences and how they can best fulfill their entrepreneurial aspiration in the future.
Keep up to date with Octavia on Twitter
Sarah Wood is co-founder and COO of video ad tech company, Unruly where her success has seen her become one of the UK’s most revered digital entrepreneurs with a sphere of influence far and beyond the walls of her now massively successful company.
Just a few of the many, many accolades to her name include UK Female Entrepreneur of the Year in the Growing Business Awards, one of 15 women to watch in technology by Inc., one of forbes 10 London-Based Entrepreneurs to Watch, and Digital Woman of the Year by RED Magazine.
On the subject of women in business she is not shy about expressing her opinion having recently told the Huffington Post “The biggest issue that I'm aware of, and I think it's a problem for lots of women in leadership roles, is that we worry too much about external perceptions. We're either perceived to be too nice or too bossy, or both at the same time, in irrational, illogical ways. One person will say "oh it's because you're too nice obviously" and then the next will say "Well if you weren't so bossy and didn't come down so hard on people" -- hang on a minute, I can't be both of these things!” Read the interview.
Follow Sarah on Twitter
Sue was recently honoured as one of the Maserati 100, a list of UK entrepreneurs who are giving back to the next generation of startups. In 2015 she was named as as one of the top 50 women in technology in Europe and is a regular technology contributor to The Guardian and The Daily Mirror.
Sue is a superb example of a successful British woman who sees it as her duty to inspire and support other women in following the path that she has taken, and understands how careers in technology need to be made more accessible in what is often perceived as a male-dominated industry.
Amongst many ventures she is the founder of BCSWomen an online network for women in technology, and #techmums, a social enterprise which empowers mums and their families through technology.
Keep up to date with Sue on Twitter