New research suggests more support needed to help women-led businesses expand internationally

16th February 2017

New businesses run by women are less likely to expand internationally than male-run companies, according to new research carried out by academics at Sheffield Hallam University.

The study, carried out by a team of researchers from the University's Business School, examines companies under five years old in order to assess the most significant factors supporting or hindering internationalisation. The research found that women-led businesses and those based in the North West, North East and the West Midlands were less likely to export to international markets than others. The team analysed data from the Longitudinal Business Survey on 1,881 companies that have been trading for less than five years. They found start-ups that focused on innovation, placed significant importance on sales growth and had high levels of productivity were the most likely to internationalise in the first five years of trading. They also found that the bias towards businesses from London and South East to internationalise early was less pronounced than expected, with a number of regions including Yorkshire and Humberside and Wales overrepresented given the proportion of new ventures in those areas. Other key findings include a propensity for businesses in the manufacturing, business services or consumption-based sectors to internationalise ahead of those focused on education and personal services, construction, and primary sector activities such as agriculture. The research also discovered that although internationalised businesses makes a larger contribution to the economy through turnover and output per worker they do not create a higher number of employment opportunities. The team who carried out the research has made recommendations for support for women-led businesses to internationalise and also suggest support needs to be available across the country and in all sectors rather than focusing on areas and industries with a high number of international businesses. They also recommend co-ordinated promotion of innovation and internationalisation as capabilities in these areas are interlinked. Lead researcher Dr Andrew Johnston, leader of the International Business and Economics Research Group (IBERG) at Sheffield Hallam, said: "There are some surprising findings in the research and some significant differences between businesses that export internationally at an early stage and those that don't. "We hope our findings will influence policy and ensure government support programmes are targeted in the right areas to help develop key industries."

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