Three in ten female entrepreneurs struggle to maintain work life balance

March 16, 2022 | London, UK

New research with small business owners from Mastercard has found that female entrepreneurs felt the impact of the pandemic more acutely than their male counterparts, but despite this are more optimistic about the future, provided they have the right digital tools to help their business grow.

The Strive Business Barometer found that female entrepreneurs are twice as likely to have started a business within the last two years during the pandemic (18%), compared to men (9%). Out of all the female entrepreneurs we surveyed, 58% said they were motivated to start a business to create a better work life balance and make more time for their families. Women were 19% more likely than men to cite this as a reason.

Despite this, data shows that women have been more impacted by the pandemic when it comes to balancing their work and home lives. The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurship 2021 found that women are almost three times more likely to be balancing care and home commitments than men, and this was exacerbated during the pandemic as the additional barriers of school closures and lockdowns meant that the care time of dependents rose significantly on a day-to-day level for women. It is perhaps no surprise then that three in ten (29%) female entrepreneurs say they are struggling to maintain a work-life balance, compared to 17% of men, and one in five (22%) say the stress of work during the pandemic has put a strain on relationships with family and friends.

When considering the future success of their business, 32% of female entrepreneurs consider new technologies to be crucial and 74% believe they would help them save time and free up thinking space. But there are barriers that prevent them accessing digital tools, including uncertainty about which is best for their business (43%), too much choice when it comes to selecting which tool to use (46%), and security concerns (22%). There is a clear opportunity to support female entrepreneurs to access and use technology in a way that will help them to reach their full potential.

When asked what support would most help them grow their business, one in five (22%) said support in accessing digital tools while four in ten (38%) said free advisory services. Mastercard is hoping to address both these points with Strive UK – a programme designed to help the UK’s micro and small businesses access the support and tools they need to succeed in the digital economy. The programme has a particular focus on supporting female business owners through free guidance, helpful tools, and personalised, one-to-one coaching.

Kelly Devine, Division President, UK & Ireland at Mastercard, comments: “As history has proven time and time again, the perseverance, determination and grit of women – particularly women entrepreneurs – can never be underestimated. While the events of the past two years have been challenging for everyone, female business owners have had more to juggle than most. Despite this, they remain fiercely optimistic for the future, and it is crucial that we support them to reach their goals and fulfil their potential.”

If female entrepreneurs have the tools to succeed, they will be able to reach their £1.2 billion* growth aspirations. Women are already feeling optimistic about the future – more so than their male counterparts. More than four in ten (43%) say they will grow their business in the next five years (compared to 34% of men), while they are around 30% less likely than men to plan to downsize or close their business.

Karen Licurse, Managing Director at Digital Boost, comments: "Female business owners recognise the importance of digital tools when it comes to increasing productivity and achieving growth ambitions. But finding and implementing the right solutions can be time consuming and confusing, and end up adding to day-to-day pressures rather than lightening the load. Through the Strive UK programme, we're delighted to provide personalised 1:1 expert support to help female leaders make the right choices for their business and seize the enormous potential that digital can bring."

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Opinium, on behalf of Mastercard, surveyed 1,000 small business owners (1-49 employees, including sole traders) in the UK between 15th and 25th of February 2022. 491 of those surveyed were women.

*Data from Mastercard’s Striving to Thrive Report 2021

Media Contacts

Suman Hughes, Mastercard

About Strive UK

Strive UK is an initiative of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth that aims to that aims to empower 650,000 micro and small businesses in the UK to succeed in the digital economy over the next three years through free guidance, helpful tools, and personalised, one-to-one mentoring. The programme is run in partnership with Enterprise Nation, Digital Boost and Be the Business, and has been designed to complement Government initiatives such as Help to Grow. Strive UK builds on Mastercard’s $250 million commitment to support small businesses’ financial security and extends the company’s commitment to financial inclusion, with efforts underway to bring a total of one billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025. 

  • Enterprise Nation will build a data driven “One Stop Shop” for micro and small businesses to help them understand and find the resources, programmes and tools available to them. The company will also manage a Strive Learning Network, bringing together large corporates and not for profits involved in delivering support to small firms for the purpose of sharing views and insight on what's working when it comes to building the conditions for enterprise to thrive. Visit 
  • Be the Business will deliver bespoke digital adoption and leadership development programmes for minority ethnic owned/led micro and small business, with a special focus on female owners from minority ethnic backgrounds. 
  • Digital Boost will provide mentorship, advice and coaching to help micro and small business owners to develop critical business skills. 

About Mastercard (UK)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.