Women are less than half as likely to go into business in the West Midlands as men, new research has claimed.
And now the Forum of Private Business is calling for better support to help women entrepreneurs in the region start their own business.
The research, carried out by Hull University Business School, Cranfield School of Management and the University of St Andrews, found that 20 per cent of men in the West Midlands are self-employed, while just eight per cent of women run their own businesses.
And it found that male-owned businesses employed on average twice as many people as women-owned ones. Male entrepreneurs employ an average of three members of staff, self-employed women have just 1.5 employees per company.
Len Collinson, the FPB’s national chairman, said: "It is important that the Government helps greater numbers of people of both genders to start and grow their own businesses. Encouraging entrepreneurship will create even more jobs and boost the economy."
As well as exposing the gender divide in the West Midlands and elsewhere, the study highlights differences in entrepreneurship between regions of the UK. It suggests that the supposed north-south divide – the idea that there is better economic performance, lower unemployment and higher gross domestic product in the South – could be more complicated in reality.
The research showed 23 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women surveyed are self-employed in the South, compared with only 17 per cent of men and eight per cent women in the north.
However, while self-employed entrepreneurs in the north have an average of 3.5 employees per company, those in the south employ 2.7.
The report suggests that "structural factors", rather than any differences in personality traits between northerners and southerners, lie behind the self-employment gap.
The FPB said it believes that the Government should take steps to remove both gender and regional inequalities as it continues to streamline its business support service from more than 3,000 to just 100 schemes.
It plans to appoint a team of 25 economists to examine the business case for each scheme, and group its products under eight themes: starting up; access to finance; management; recruitment; people development; operations and efficiency; product development; and marketing and sales development.
Dr Michael Nolan, one of the authors of the report, and a teacher at the Hull University Business School, said: "The findings are sufficiently different between the north and south of England as to require corresponding regional variation in enterprise policy, particularly regarding education and finance."