Successive UK governments have introduced a range of policy initiatives designed to encourage more women to start new firms. Underpinning these policies has been an explicit ambition for the UK to achieve similar participation rates as those in the US where it is widely reported that women own nearly half the stock of businesses. The data underlying these objectives are critically evaluated and it is argued that the definitions and measures of female enterprise used in the UK and the US restrict meaningful comparisons between the two. It is suggested that the expansion of female entrepreneurship in the US is historically and culturally specific to that country. UK policy goals should reflect the national socioeconomic context, while drawing upon good practice examples from a range of other countries. The paper concludes by discussing the economic and social viability of encouraging more women in the UK to enter self-employment without fully recognising the intensely competitive sectors in which they are often located.