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


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.”

For press information: Jo Beattie in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2811 or email

Notes to Editor

 The full report is available to download here

Photo of lead researcher Dr Andrew Johnston attached.

About the Longitudinal Small Business Survey

 The Longitudinal Small Business Survey (LSBS), is a survey of business owners and managers, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The survey is designed to provide data on small-and-medium-sized enterprise performance and the factors that affect this. Sheffield Hallam University is part of the LSBS User Group, a group of 35 academic and policy researchers. Supported by BEIS and the Enterprise Research Centre, the User Group aims to share good practice and promote widespread awareness and use of the LSBS database.

About Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield Hallam University is one of the largest universities in the UK, with more than 31,500 students.

It is one of the country’s largest providers of health and social care courses, teacher training, and sport and physical activity courses. It is also home to the UK’s largest modern business school.

Its courses are designed and delivered in close partnership with employers, professional associations and practice specialists to ensure that the skills our students develop are relevant. As a result, 93 per cent of its students are in employment or further training within six months of graduation.

As one of the UK’s most progressive universities, providing opportunity through widening participation is at the heart of the University. 96 per cent of its young full-time undergraduate UK students are from state schools/colleges and 41 per cent are from low income backgrounds.

Sheffield Hallam’s research is characterised by a focus on real world impact – addressing the cultural, economic and social challenges facing society today. 65 per cent of its research was rated world-leading or internationally excellent in the Research Excellence Framework.


Related Posts