We have a new website go to gov.scot

Statistics in more details

Summary: Gender and Business and Enterprise

  • In 2016, the majority of small to medium-sized enterprise employers were owned by men, or led by a management team with a majority of men. Around 19% of Scottish small to medium-sized enterprise employers were majority-led by women in 2016. Around 42% of small to medium-sized enterprise employers had at least 50% female leadership.

SME Employer Leadership in Scotland by Gender, 2016

Majority-led by women




At least 50 per cent female leadership (majority-led by women & equally led)



Source: Small Business Survey Scotland 2016 (Last updated: August 2017)



  • Out of the 322,900 self-employed people in Scotland in 2017, 109,600 were women (34%) while 213,300 were men (66%).  Despite a drop between 2016 and 2017 (-3.2%), female self-employment has increased over recent years, from 76,000 in 2007 to 109,600 in 2017, representing a rise of 44.2%. Although male self-employment also experienced a rise over the same time period, it was considerably smaller at 13.5%.
  • In Scotland, the female self-employment rate (self-employed as a proportion of those in employment) was 8.6% in 2017 – lower than the male self-employment rate at 15.8%, but increased by 2.3 percentage points since 2007. The male self-employment rate increased by 1.7 percentage points over the same period.
  • There are more self-employed men than self-employed women in all broad industrial sectors, with the exception of ‘Public Administration, Education and Health’ (in 2017, women made up 69% of the self-employed workforce in this sector) and ‘Other services[1]’ (in 2017, women made up 55% of the self-employed workforce in this sector).  Around 45% of all self-employed women work in these two sectors alone – compared to 14% of self-employed men.
  • In 2017, the female self-employment rate was lower in Scotland (8.6%), than in the UK as a whole (10.8%). The UK figure is particularly influenced by comparatively high rates in London and the south of England. 
  • The gap between female and male self-employment rates is narrower in Scotland (8.6% v 15.8% - gap of 7.2 percentage points) compared to that for the UK as a whole (10.8% v 19% - gap of 8.2 percentage points).

Source: Annual Population Survey results for year to December 2017 (Last updated: May 2018)

Note: [1] Industry sectors are defined using Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) 2007 codes. ‘Other services’ includes the following SIC 2007 sections: ‘R - Arts, entertainment & recreation’ and ‘S - Other service activities’ which includes, for example, activities of religious organisations, repair of computers and hairdressing and other beauty treatment. More information on SIC 2007 codes is available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/classifications/current-standard-classifications/standard-industrial-classification/index.html


  • In 2016, Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) was higher for males (9.5%) than for females (5.2%).

  • Between 2015 and 2016 TEA increased by 2 percentage points for males but decreased by 0.6 percentage points for females.

  • Female TEA increased by 1.6 percentage points between 2002 and 2016, but was at its highest in 2015.

TEA gender

Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, United Kingdom 2016 Monitoring Report (Last updated: May 2018)


Useful Links

Gender Page

Business and Enterprise Page

Publications and Outputs

Publications and Outputs

Small Business Survey Scotland 2016 (August 2017) Findings from the Longitudinal Small Business Survey. It outlines the key characteristics of small and medium-sized enterprises with employees, in Scotland. Includes statistics on ethnicity and gender

Regional Employment Patterns in Scotland: Statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2016 (May 2017) Summary publication of results from the Annual Population Survey, presenting analysis on the labour market, education and training. The main publication contains data on age, disability, ethnicity and gender, with further equalities analysis found in the Supplementary Local Authority Tables.

Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Gender Evidence Review (2013) A comprehensive review of available evidence in relation to gender



Scottish Government Survey Data

Annual Population Survey - Annual Population Survey microdata is available (through a ‘special licence’ scheme) from the UK Data Archive

Official Statistics

statistics.gov.scot - Explore, visualise and download over 200 datasets from a range of producers. Start browsing by theme, organisation, or geography. Or access programmatically using our APIs. A range of datasets are available that can be broken down by gender


External Links

External Links

Please note that you will leave the Scottish Government web site by clicking on any of the following links, and that the Scottish Government and its staff are not responsible for content external to this web site. The research below has been carried out independently of the Scottish Government and the findings do not necessarily represent the views of the Scottish Government or Scottish Ministers

External Publications and Outputs

Delivering through diversity: Diversity and financial performance in 2017 (McKinsey & Company, 2018) Research looking at the correlation between diversity in the leadership of large corporations and financial performance. Includes analysis of ethnicity and gender

Female FTSE Index (Cranfield School of Management) An annual report on the gender balance of executive directors on boards of the UK's top 100 companies

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (University of Strathclyde) An annual report published by the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde, on entrepreneurship within Scotland and the UK.

Small Business Survey reports (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) A collection of UK small business survey reports. This includes ethnicity and gender, whilst the surveys for 2012 and 2014 also contain a breakdown for Scotland by age and disability.



Business and Enterprise