Achieving a competition-wide gender balance

Early in 2019, we took a look at the gender balance across the then current round – Round 14. We found that of that round’s 225 applicants, 67 were female-led, which made up around 30% of the total number of participants – obviously short of where we would like to be. We have since additionally introduced metrics to distinguish against all male, all female and mixed gender owned businesses.

A concerning, but perhaps unsurprising trend that we identified from this mix was that of those 67 female applicants, only 23 asked for £90,000+ in the competition which means almost 2/3’s of female applicants asked for an amount notably lower than the maximum available. Whereas for the male applicants, almost half applied for £90,000+.

Furthermore, of the 18 Scottish EDGE Finalists of that round, one business, which was female-led, was an outlier in terms of the amount requested, with an ask of £40,000 compared to the next lowest of £80,000. However, when asked by a Judge if she would have use for additional funds, this business owner was able to readily list several key spend areas which could drive the business forward faster.


To help deliver the Scottish EDGE competition we use around 100 assessors from across the business community in Scotland. Each individual assessment panel normally has around five or six people. For Round 14, around 42% of Assessors were female and we were keen to push for an even 50/50 split.

Aside from the wider societal drivers in achieving a fair split for our panels, there are concerns that presenting to a male-weighted panel could put the female finalists at a perceived disadvantage, so we are naturally eager to ensure that such scenarios do not occur.

Over the course of the remaining year, we actively amplified our efforts in achieving a strong gender balance across the entirety of the Scottish EDGE competition by or before the 2020 Rounds. We’re happy to report that the first Round of 2020 carries the strongest gender split in the organisation’s history.

Round 16

For Round 16, Scottish EDGE will be utilising the expertise of 91 assessors to support with the delivery of a fair and balanced assessment and judging process – and for the first time in any round of the competition, we are pleased to have secured more female assessors than male.

Of the 56 First Stage Assessors, 32 are female and 24 are male, and of the 35 Live Pitching Judges, 18 are female and 17 are male. Also for the first time, the Live Final panel will be female-weighted, with 3 of the 4 judges recruited to date being female. Cumulatively therefore, 50 of the 91 assessors and judges will be female which represents a 54%/46% split in favour of female representation.

Finally, of the 251 applicants of Round 16, 21% are female-led and 40% have a female and male split meaning 61% have a female playing a leading role in the business. As the round progresses, a clearer indication of variances in the level of funding applied for between female and male finalists will become known.

Whilst this positive shift helps address our issues with uneven gender balance, this isn’t a box-ticking exercise. It’s crucial for the success of EDGE that everything we do aligns with our goal to support and grow strong businesses in Scotland, which will ultimately strengthen the Scottish economy.

We know that Scotland’s women-led businesses collectively contribute an estimated £8.8bn GVA to the Scottish economy and achieving equality would add a further £7.6bn, so for us there is an economic incentive as well as a sociocultural one.