Gender issues present challenge for women entrepreneurs

The Government, financial institutions, and a host of business bodies are being called on to provide greater support to women entrepreneurs, in a new report published by The Industrial Society.

“Unequal Entrepreneurs: Why female enterprise is an uphill business”, argues that many women starting in business are simply swapping low pay in employment for low profits in self-employment.

It is the persistent gender differences experienced in the labour market which mean that women do not have the necessary pre-venture experience to mobilise resources, the means to access the best finance or the contacts, to start and sustain a business, relative to men, according to the authors.

Nevertheless, figures reveal that women-owned businesses make a significant contribution to the UK economy – out of 3.7 million SMEs currently in the UK, 26% are likely to be female-led.

Access to finance can be a particularly difficult problem for women entrepreneurs to deal with, and the report highlights several pilot-lending schemes which have already been established for women in the UK. Examples include Wellpark’s West of Scotland Micro-credit Programme.

A different, successful pilot project, run in Glasgow and managed by Wellpark (in conjunction with the Scottish Enterprise Network) has, through training, seminars, and one-to-one counselling, enabled women entrepreneurs to become more knowledgeable on sources of finance for business growth.

Examples of on-line support provided by the report include, funded by Scottish Enterprise. A number of virtual networks are also springing up, formed by women entrepreneurs themselves.

The authors go on to make recommendations such as forming a National Centre for Women’s Enterprise; forming a national policy on women’s enterprise; providing more business support, drawing up a Women’s Business Charter, and establishing an Office for women’s business ownership, encourage women entrepreneurship.

With thanks to Lloyds TSB Success4Business.

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Women In Business

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