‘Manifesto for Accelerating Action’ launched as gender gap in enterprise widens

Carolyn Currie, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Scotland

WOMEN’S Enterprise Scotland is today (10 June) launching its 2024 Manifesto for Accelerating Action on Economic Growth, focusing on the critical importance of unlocking the opportunity that women’s enterprise represents and adding billions of pounds to the economy.

The launch of the manifesto, which follows the recent launch of the WES Survey Report, comes in the run up to the UK General Election and focuses on five priority areas to accelerate action on Scotland’s economic growth, by developing and supporting women’s enterprise: Dedicated Business Support for Women, Robust Access to Business Funding, Access to Care, Financial Inclusion, and Mandatory Assessments, Data and Monitoring.

Carolyn Currie, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, said: “We are calling on all parties and candidates for the 2024 United Kingdom elections to prioritise the immense economic potential that women’s enterprise represents. The COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have exposed significant fault lines in our economy including a gap between strategic commitments on change and the business-as-usual routing of resources and support. Accelerated action is needed to ensure resources are allocated fairly and women can make their rightful contribution to our economy.”

Women-led businesses currently contribute £8.7bn to the Scottish economy every year and account for 235,000 jobs. This is 13.5% of the private sector total employment in Scotland. While some progress has been achieved, the latest data shows the percentage of women-led employer businesses has now dropped to 22%. Increasing the percentage of women-led businesses by just 10% would add billions of pounds to the economy each year.

The recently published Women in Enterprise Survey reveals an ongoing ambition for growth amongst Scotland’s women entrepreneurs which is being constrained by structural inequalities. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents view dedicated support for women as vital to realising their business aspirations. Two-thirds felt they have experienced discrimination as a women entrepreneur, almost double the 34% reported in 2016.

In addition, new data from Bibby Financial Services’ latest SME Confidence Tracker, which surveyed 1,000 UK SMEs, found that 66% of women business leaders believe that banks are less prepared to lend to businesses like theirs, while 57% say it’s more difficult to access external finance than it was six months ago.

Carolyn Currie concluded; Research continues to highlight the challenges that women in enterprise face, including significant lending inequalities which are hampering their growth ambitions. We simply must prioritise the five key action areas in our manifesto if we want to grow our economy.”

Dedicated Business Support for Women : more personalised mainstream business support provision, including advisors with lived experience of running their own business and advisors trained in the importance and practical delivery of dedicated support for women

Access to Funding: Women start their businesses with 53% less capital than men, a massive disadvantage from the outset, and for the past decade just 2% of venture capital has been received by female founder teams. Robust capitalisation is fundamental for business sustainability and growth.

Access to Care: Access to an infrastructure of care is vital to increase inclusion and the extent to which women can participate in business creation and growth.

Financial Inclusion: 48% of women survey respondents have never contributed to a pension while running their business and 61% are using savings to fund their business. This situation has serious implications for retirement income and financial security.

Assessment, Data & Monitoring: Data and measurement are fundamental tools to ensure women receive their fair share of business support resources and strategic commitments align to the actions taken on distributing funding and support.

Full details of the Women’s Enterprise Scotland Manifesto for Accelerating Action on Economic Growth are available at www.wescotland.co.uk/manifesto2024.

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