Enterprise support

Women demand action on £50m business centre

Carolyn Currie: work still to be done (pic: Terry Murden)

A group campaigning to close the gender gap in the Scottish economy is calling on the Holyrood Government to fulfil its pledge to establish a National Women’s Business Centre.

Women’s Enterprise Scotland, a community interest company, is pressing for investment of £50m in the centre which it says could provide vital support and help fulfil key objectives, such as bridging the gap that remains in the funding of male and female led businesses.

As the organisation marks its 10th anniversary, CEO Carolyn Currie said: “Our newly published Impact Report outlines how far things have moved on in the last decade.

“However, what it also highlights is how much work there is still to do if we, as a nation, have an ambition to close the gender gap in enterprise participation. That’s why WES is calling for action on the Scottish Government commitment to invest in the establishment of a National Women’s Business Centre, a model which could transform Scotland’s economy.”

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship in 2019, commissioned by the UK Treasury, revealed that female entrepreneurs typically have to start businesses with only half as much capital as men.  The review also identified that up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men.

Women have fundamentally different experiences to men in business, including access to finance, disproportionate caring responsibilities, access to networks, mentoring and role models.

The COVID-19 pandemic also served to heighten these barriers, with women far more likely to be juggling business and domestic responsibilities and more likely to work and be business owners in the sectors put in jeopardy by the crisis. They are under considerable pressure as they rebuild and emerge from the challenges of the past two years.

Among recent WES initiatives is addition of more Ambassadors, taking the innovative role model programme to more than 70 women business owners from across Scotland.

Additionally, as part of its 10th anniversary, WES has completed a comprehensive rebranding exercise in conjunction with Glasgow based 999Design.

Ms Currie continued; “Women-owned businesses in Scotland are now just 14% of SME employer businesses, down from 20.6% in 2017.

“It is simply inexcusable that we are leaving billions of pounds on the table that could be going into the economy if we just put the resources in place to allow women to achieve their business and economic ambitions.

“That is why we need meaningful plans for the proposed National Women’s Business Centre realised as soon as possible, to put in place the gender specific support and resources women need to start and grow sustainable, thriving businesses and play their rightful role in transforming Scotland’s economy.”

In a bid to provide support for women at the pre start up and start up stages of their business journey, Women’s Enterprise Scotland launched the digital Women’s Business Centre in June 2020. The first freely accessible digital platform of its kind has had more than 10,000 visitors since its launch and membership is currently well over 1,000.

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