Women are taking to the high streets in their droves. Not as you may think – shopping or getting their hair done, but joining the entrepreneurial ranks, setting up and running successful businesses. These women are smart, savvy and sensible. They're tapping into new markets and seizing opportunities.
Data from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has shown that only 24% of high street businesses set up 20 years ago were primarily owned by women. This compares to almost 50% in the past two years. Why, might you ask? Well, the economic downturn hit everyone. People lost their jobs and there just weren't the jobs out there for people to go into. Many set up businesses and a large proportion on the high street are women-owned.
Obviously, society is in a very different place than it was 20 years ago too. No longer is it the norm for women to be shackled to the kitchen sink. Women are in high profile positions in businesses across the world. And as our data shows the women opening businesses tend to be better educated than their male counterparts - a significantly higher proportion have a degree.
The data also shows how they borrow less than their male counterparts too – by as much as £10,000 on average. This could be because naturally women are less risk averse, so don't want to have lots of debt behind them, or that they just don't need at much to start up on the high street.
If you believe the stereotypes, women know the high street well so it would make sense for them to set up there. But that's not always the case. Carolyn Frank is a business woman in Helmsley, North Yorkshire and has owned Libby Butler Jewellers since 2009. She used to work for big corporations and decided to buy a small firm in the middle of the deepest recession so she could be in control of her own future.
Helmsley is a great example of 'women doing it for themselves' as 60% of the shops on the main high street are female owned.
All small business owners are in control of every department, many choose to set up for the variety with no two days being the same. Something many women will thrive on.
Furthermore, women are very good at supporting other women – whether they are the competition or not. Carolyn said: "Helmsley is a great place to have a business. I feel far more support here from the other female business owners than I ever did from my colleagues in multinational companies. We share skills and knowledge and help each other."
Many women will start their business to work around family commitments. But there is definitely more that can be done to tell female entrepreneurs about the benefits of being their own boss. We have the internet, mobile and video technology which means many people can set up businesses from their kitchen table.
A report from the 'Women's Business Council' showed in 2012 that women are still far less likely to set up a business compared to men and we see regular reports about the lack of women on the boards of top companies.
However, women's entrepreneurship rates standing at 6.2% in the UK, this is higher than Germany (4.5%) and France (3.0%), but behind the US (10.4%). This rate has increased substantially in recent years and is up from 3.2% in 2001. If women were setting up and running new businesses at the same rate as men, there could be one million more female entrepreneurs.
So, there's no doubt women setting up in firms is something that can only be positive for the economy. Women are being innovative, seizing a gap in the market, and creating a real shift in UK businesses – more women creating businesses for women.
John Allan is the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses