Women in business are an “under-utilised economic resource” and more should be done to close the gender gap between male and female business owners in the UK, according to a report released yesterday by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BiS).

The Inclusive Support for Women in Enterprise report was compiled by Lorely Burt, who was appointed by business secretary, Vince Cable to champion women in enterprise.

Vince Cable, said:

“I appointed Lorely as ‘women in enterprise champion’ so she could build on the good work we’ve already done and help us increase entrepreneurial aspiration among women. Reaching our target of 25 per cent women on FTSE 100 boards by 2015 is now in sight.

“The government is committed to ensuring that talented women have the tools at hand whether it’s running a business on their own or heading up a corporate board. The evidence is clear – gender diversity delivers better business decisions which are vital to securing the future prosperity of the UK.”

The report aims to provide gateways for women to enter positions of power in British businesses, which Burt believes will boost economic growth and the creation of jobs. The number of female-led SMEs has grown from 14% in 2008 to 20% today, but still more must be done to close the gender gap.

Women majority-own around one in five businesses and are a third less likely than men to start a business. The report found this was not simply due to a desire to have a better work-life balance and that many women are looking to work more hours but are not given the opportunity to progress.

Recommendations include thinking inclusively, building an evidence base with a focus on business diversity and planning inclusively – a one-size-fits-all approach may result in missed opportunities.

Burt said:

“Sadly too much female entrepreneurial talent remains untapped although the Coalition Government has made progress. In my report I outline the economic and the moral case for taking further action to unlock women’s business talent.

“We need to encourage government and business to think inclusively at all times. We must also break unnecessary barriers between entrepreneurs and the support they need to succeed. I am pleased to see the government is taking action and I look forward to further progress over the years ahead.”