Business Grants and Awards for Women

While startups are booming, funding remains a roadblock for many female entrepreneurs.

Women are statistically less likely to receive funding than all-male teams, and half as likely as men to apply for grants in the first place.

Fortunately there are a number of funds and awards that aim to level the playing field by focusing on female-led businesses.


Why Fund Female Entrepreneurs?

Women make up only 17% of business owners, yet more than half of women surveyed say that they would like to start a business. RBS calculate that if women set up businesses at the same rate as men, the British economy would be boosted by £60 billion.

The Entrepreneurs Network report that men are 86% more likely than women to secure venture capital funding and 56% more likely to win the backing of an angel investor. Only 9% of all startup funding in the UK goes to female-led businesses.


Business Grants for Women in the UK

In this article we’ve listed seven funding bodies available to female entrepreneurs in the UK, along with their requirements and application processes.


Anita Borg Institute

The Anita Borg Institute runs two awards programmes for women in computing – the Abie Award and the Pass It On Award.

The Abie Award recognises women in the industry, with 2019’s awards celebrating emerging technologists, social impact and educational innovation.

The Pass It On Award offers prizes for women and girls who inspire others to go into computing.


Abie Awards winners will receive up to $20,000 depending on the award.

Pass It On winners will receive $500 to $1,000 depending on their application.

How to apply

For an Abie Award you’ll typically need to be nominated by somebody outside of your organisation, but some awards are self-nominated. You must include a biography, photograph, two letters of reference, a CV and a statement of merit. Nominations close February 13, 2019.

You can apply to Pass It On for yourself. Applications are closed for 2018, but will reopen in 2019.

Learn moreAnita Borg Foundation


Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

French luxury jeweller Cartier run their Women’s Initiative Award every year, with winners receiving coaching and a share of more than $1M in funding. Female entrepreneurs from any country and industry are welcome to apply, provided their business is for-profit and in its early stages.


7 laureates will win $100,000 and one-to-one business mentoring.

14 finalists will win $30,000 in prize money.

All 21 candidates win a week of workshops, media and networking opportunities and access to the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Programme.

How to apply

Complete their application form, attaching your company’s tax returns, business registration document, capitalisation table and other supporting evidence. Applications for the 2020 edition will open in June 2o19.

Learn moreCartier Women’s Initiative Award


Global Fund for Women

The Global Fund for Women supports organisations run by women, girls and trans people outside the United States. Successful applicants will receive funding and resources to help their local communities and often get multi-year grants.


Funding and support varies by organisation.

How to apply

Applications are open year-round. You’ll need to submit a profile on your organisation and then make a grant proposal.

Learn more: Global Fund for Women


Market Inspector Scholarship for Women in Business

This one is a little different – it’s a scholarship prize for female undergraduate and postgraduate students who have also set up their own business.


£1,000 scholarship for the applicant with the most innovative business.

How to apply

Submit a 1000-word essay describing your business. You must have evidence that you are currently enrolled or accepted at an accredited university or business school in an English-speaking country.

The current cycle closes 31 October 2018.

Learn more: Market Inspector


StartHer Awards

StartHer invites European startups with at least one woman on the founding team to apply for their awards. 10 finalists will pitch to a panel of industry experts. Companies must have been active for between 6 months and 3 years.


€10,000 for one winner and prizes for finalists.

How to apply

Complete an application explaining your startup, where you are now and your plans for development. The 2018 awards have just passed, but keep an eye out for next year’s application cycle.

Learn more: StartHer


Women In Innovation Awards

This programme is run by Innovate UK, a non-departmental public body funded by the government. 2018’s funding will be awarded to female-led ideas that address the four grand challenges posed by the government’s Industrial Strategy:

  • AI and the data economy
  • clean growth
  • future of mobility
  • ageing society


£50,000 funding plus mentoring for 8 winners.

How to apply

Describe your business, the resources you have and how you would use the funding. Finalists will be invited to an interview to present their ideas.

The 2018 edition closed on October 3, but the programme is likely to return in 2019.

Learn more: Innovate UK


Women Who Tech Startup Challenge

Women Who Tech regularly run Startup Challenges to showcase and fund innovative, female-led startups around the world. Ten finalists pitch to a panel of industry experts for a share of $60,000, resources and mentorship.


Up to $35,000 in funding and support, depending on the prize.

How to apply

The Europe 2018 awards have just passed, but keep an eye out for next year’s competition.

Learn more: Women Who Tech