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More female entrepreneur role-models needed in schools to break down gender stereotypes on work and areas like pay

08 Mar 2024

Girls are less likely than boys to consider their earning potential when thinking about their future careers, according to new data being shared today, on International Women’s Day, by The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC). 

The findings come as a new initiative is announced to bring more female entrepreneurs into schools to inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs and challenge gender stereotypes about work. 

The partners in the new project are The CEC, the national body for careers education, The ScaleUp Institute, Founders 4 Schools and the Women-led High Growth Entrepreneur Taskforce. 

The CEC asked more than 100,000 students: Do you know how to find out how much you could earn in different types of jobs?” Across every year group, fewer female students responded positively (a consistent 9-10%pts difference).  

Concerningly, the difference is largest when students are making key decisions about their future career – when they are choosing what GCSEs to take (Year 8), or starting to thinking about what to do after their GCSEs (Year 10).  

Question: Do you know how to find out how much you could earn in different types of jobs? 







Males answering yes 






Females answering yes 












The findings complement other recent research around women and pay, highlighting that women in work were far less likely to ask for a pay rise than their male colleagues. 

Nicky Morgan, Chair of the Careers & Enterprise Company said: 

“Women in business, and as top earners in senior positions, are still in a minority. The female students of today, are the female success stories of tomorrow, so it's vital that schools and colleges are sharing empowering, inspiring examples of women who have made it in their chosen field.” 

Baroness Morgan, who was Women and Equalities Minister from 2014-2016, continued: 

Female students report, on average, lower career readiness than their male peers. We are delighted to be working with the ScaleUp Institute and Founders4Schools on a joint venture to get more female entrepreneurs into schools because gender should not be a barrier to students’ career readiness.” 

The Careers and Enterprise Company data reveals that: 

Across every year group, female students score, on average, lower than their male peers on being well-prepared for jobs. 

  • Apart from Year 11 students (where girls out-perform disadvantaged boys), career readiness was lower for girls than boys. The gap is even greater for disadvantaged girls (those who get Free School Meals). 
  • Students’ job interests are prone to gender-bias. The research shows that jobs in “Sport & Leisure" tend to be more attractive to male students, while careers in "Animal Care" or "Travel & Tourism" tend to be more attractive to female students. These roles are not only gender-stereotyped, but are also over-subscribed, blunting opportunity. 
  • Strong careers provision (which we measure using Gatsby Benchmarks) has a positive impact on students’ career readiness and hence their interests, supporting them to navigate their career choices more effectively. 
  • Strong careers provision makes a difference and is starting to break down gender-bias around job choices.  
  • Students with the highest career readiness were more than twice as likely to have ideas about which industries they want to work in. These interests were two times less likely to be influenced by gender-bias and two times less likely to be in over-subscribed sectors.  
  • Girls who felt fully ‘career ready’ were two times more likely to choose careers in areas like engineering. 

Irene Graham OBE, the CEO of the ScaleUp Institute said:  

The UK has a diverse range of entrepreneurs, and its scaleup businesses, including the many founded by women, contribute £1.6 bn yearly to the UK economy - making up over 50 per cent of the UK’s SME economy, despite being only 0.6% of the business population.   

“The ScaleUp Institute wants to shine a light on these growth champions and to make sure that every female student knows their local scaleups and the career options available to them, across industries and roles.  

“We are delighted to be working with the Careers Enterprise Company, Founders 4 Schools and the Women-led High Growth Entrepreneur Taskforce to increase the awareness of our female founders and inspire the next generation on their entrepreneurial pathway, be that in setting up their own business, or joining a scaleup business with the variety of diverse career opportunities that brings”.    

Sam Smith, Serial Entrepreneur / founder and a member of the Women-led High Growth Entrepreneur Taskforce, said: 

“Ambition and aspiration need to start as early as possible. That means knowing what is possible and seeing it being done. If we want to increase the number of female high-growth entrepreneurs, we need a strong pipeline of girls who believe they can do it.  

“As part of the Women Led High Growth Enterprise Taskforce we identified that showcasing women who have set up high growth enterprises from across the country was an important step in showing future generations of women that setting up a high growth enterprise is a valid and rewarding career option.   

“Tackling gender stereotypes early is crucial and we are delighted to work with the ScaleUp Institute, CEC and Founders4Schools to bring greater visibility of scaleup female founders to schools which will go some way to breaking down stereotypes and helping inspire future women founders.” 

​​Sherry Coutu CBE, Serial Entrepreneur and Founder of  ​​Founders 4 Schools, said: 

“Founders4Schools is delighted to be partnering with Careers Enterprise Company and the ScaleUp Institute in making sure that we practically help schools to access female founders who can speak to students and share - first hand - their business experiences and the skills that they have needed to shape their entrepreneurial journeys.  

“We know from evidence that directly connecting entrepreneurs to students is a powerful way of supporting students in their subject choices and providing students with relevant insights to inform their future career paths.”