Policies ‘must tackle barriers to women in business’
Barriers facing women in business have been exacerbated during the Covid crisis and must be addressed by changes to government policy, according to a group representing female company owners.
Studies have shown that women still struggle to raise finance and access support systems around their needs, particularly when also raising families.
Carolyn Currie, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), said politicians needed to prioritise women’s enterprise in the next parliamentary session.
Launching the groups’ Manifesto for Change ahead of the Scottish Election in May, she said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant vulnerabilities in our economic and social systems and highlighted what were already existing inequalities in our society.
“Pre-existing barriers for women in business have been exacerbated and recovery planning absolutely must include policies which address the very specific needs of women in business.”
Businesses which are majority-owned by women currently contribute £8.8bn to the Scottish economy each year and account for more than 231,000 jobs, which is 13% of the private sector total in Scotland.
But WES states that “years of progress have now stalled”, with the number of women-led businesses in Scotland declining over two consecutive years from 20.6% in 2017 to 14% in 2019.
Ms Currie said; “Studies continue to highlight challenges faced by women in business and there is a broad evidence base which can inform policy development.
“If we are to emerge from the pandemic stronger and smarter – if we are going to ‘build back better’ – then the time for talking is over.
“We simply must prioritise the key actions which will close the quite frankly shameful and accelerating gender gap in enterprise participation and allow women to fulfil their economic potential.”
The five priorities for change in the Women’s Enterprise manifesto for change are:
- Enable greater access to finance (women start their businesses with 53% less capital than men)
- Enable a more gender aware business support structure across Scotland (71% of women’s businesses in a Scottish survey agreed or strongly agreed that business support services need to be more aware of women’s needs)
- Champion digital inclusion (only 16% of girls are studying Computing Science at Higher level)
- Deliver improved data collection (the gathering, analysis and publication of gender-disaggregated data is fundamental to closing the persistent gender gap in enterprise participation)
- Advocate for a more gender equal economy (investing in care would create 2.7 times as many jobs as the same investment in construction)