Gender gap

Women still losing out in public procurement deals

Sophie Rooney: significant changes are needed

Female-led businesses continue to lose out on public sector contracts, according to Women’s Enterprise Scotland.

The message comes as WES, which works to close the enterprise gender gap, launches its bi-annual survey of Scotland’s female-focused businesses.

It also comes prior to this week’s Business in the Parliament (2-3 February), when Women’s Enterprise Scotland will lead the session on procurement.

The annual report from the cross party group on Women in Enterprise covers the topics that were reviewed during its 2022 schedule of meetings.

A key theme raised by a range of women business owners was the procurement process and the barriers to making a successful tender that are faced by SMEs and micro businesses, many of which are led by women.

Evidence delivered by the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) revealed that despite making up 93% of the entire business community, micro businesses receive less than 5% of procurement spend by value. With the vast majority of SMEs and microbusinesses being women-led, the result is a lack of opportunity for these businesses to engage in the public sector procurement process.

Ann Johnson, WES ambassador and founder of Blaze Manufacturing Solutions, said: “There is a lack of notice being given about public sector contracts, which makes it harder to bid for them.

“Additionally, in some sectors, there are supply chain strategies that exclude most SMEs, which is the category almost all women-led businesses in Scotland fit into.”

Sophie Rooney, secretary of the Women in Enterprise cross party group, added: “The evidence given by women business owners during our session on procurement shows that significant changes are needed to the system if women-led businesses are to have an opportunity to tender.

“The barriers which SMEs and micro businesses face during the procurement process means that they have little chance of success, with the result that local communities do not benefit from this spend as it gets channelled into large, often multinational companies.”

WES is now urging policy makers to look at ways to improve public sector spending with SMEs and microbusinesses so that businesses of all sizes have a fair opportunity to engage in the procurement process.

Andrew Murphy, chief operating officer at John Lewis & Partners, will deliver the keynote business address at the Business in the Parliament Conference on 3 Feb.

About 250 people are expected to attend the event which will also hear from First Minister Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Murphy is a fomer manager of the Edinburgh store and is the immediate past chairman of the Scottish Retail Consortium.

The full Cross Party Group on Women in Enterprise 2022 report can be accessed at Women’s Enterprise Scotland | Cross Party Group (

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