'Lack of detail'
Women’s group demands release of report data
A women’s networking group has called for full publication of the research behind a government-commissioned report on support for female entrepreneurs.
Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), which works to close the enterprise gender gap, has welcomed the 150-page report Pathways: A New Approach for Women in Entrepreneurship, published on Monday, but said there was a lack of detail behind many of the proposals.
The research was chaired by entrepreneur Ana Stewart and co-led by the government’s chief entrepreneur Mark Logan.
It included interviews with more 200 individuals and organisations from across the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including the Scottish Government and its agencies, investment firms, accelerator and incubator programmes, schools,colleges and universities.
WES chief executive Carolyn Currie has called for the full detail on the data shaping the recommendations to be urgently released.
“We fully welcome the aspiration but there is a disconnect between the published evidence and the recommendations presented,” she said.
“To truly realise transformational change for all women seeking to start-up and grow their own businesses, the review needed to specify actions to tackle the many different challenges faced by women with intersecting experiences and the systemic structural inequalities holding back progress.
“We must be careful to avoid an ‘add women and stir’ approach to the issues being faced.”
The 31 recommendations include providing women with greater access to finance and to existing support services, setting up more incubators closer to women who may be primary carers, and quotas of women for investment decisions.
Ms Currie said it contained “no plans to tackle the structural inequalities within those support structures.
“Proposals for new services lack detail on how or if delivery will be specifically tailored to women’s needs.”
She said it is almost a year since the review was launched and research shows women’s rights are regressing.
Research by the World Economic Forum finds that it will now be 132 years until gender equality is achieved, up from 99.5 years in 2020.
While studies show women face specific challenges and have called for support to be provided in specific areas, WES says the review does not acknowledge some of these key challenges and support needs.
Ms Currie continued: “Women-owned businesses were badly let down during Covid-19 and did not receive their fair share of business relief grants.
“If the government is serious about transforming women’s entrepreneurship, the commitment to a women’s business centre model must be urgently progressed.
“It is vital that the full data and rationale forming the review approach and recommendations are made available to aid understanding so that we can bring an informed and collaborative approach to delivering transformative change.
“We need robust solutions to tackle the inequitable status quo and ensure that no women or girls are left behind.”
WES continues to call for the Scottish Government confirm its commitment of £50m towards a Women’s Business Centre model.
Women’s start-ups grow
Women set up 151,603 companies last year, up by 6,332 on the previous year. They represented 20% of all incorporations, compared with 16.7% in 2018, according to the latest report from the the Rose review.
Those aged under 25 were the largest group, setting up 17,489 businesses last year, compared with only 785 in 2018.
The review was launched by the Treasury in 2019 and led by Dame Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group.
Dame Alison said: “It’s testament to the resilience and entrepreneurialism of female founders that they are creating more companies than ever before.”
Kevin Hollinrake, the small business minister, added that 40% of the government’s Start Up Loans had gone to support women entrepreneurs and that its 12-week Help to Grow management training was “providing business leaders with the skills they need to succeed”.