WES warns of continued structural inequalities faced by women business owners

Sophie Rooney (WES)

WOMEN’S Enterprise Scotland – the community interest company which works to close the gender gap in enterprise – has warned that women led businesses continue to face structural discrimination.

The annual report from the Cross-Party Group on Women in Enterprise convened by Michelle Thomson MSP, covers the topics that were reviewed during its 2023 schedule of meetings. A key theme was the structural inequalities affecting women’s pension provision.

Evidence presented by Scottish Widows revealed that men accumulate over £100,000 more in their pension pots compared to their female counterparts. With the cost-of-living crisis acting to significantly diminish the value of retirement savings, the gap has worsened. A recent report from Scottish Widows in November also shows that men are on track for a retirement income that’s nearly 40% higher than that of a woman.

In addition, survey research by WES identified women business owners find access to finance a challenge. These findings were echoed by the British Business Bank recently stating there had been no improvement in the 2% share of venture capital funding received by female founders over the past decade. 

In such a constrained funding landscape, it is unsurprising women turn to their savings to capitalise their businesses. However, by diverting savings to support businesses, the funds available to contribute into a pension are reduced, a position made worse as the years roll by and pension under-provision, or no provision at all, accumulates.

Brenda Santimano, CEO and founder of HFL Holistic Financial Solutions, commented: “There is an urgent need for targeted action to address the growing gender gap in pension provision for women business owners. Legislation has failed to keep up with changes over the years and many women are entirely unaware of the future pension implications from the financial and work choices they make today.”

Sophie Rooney, Secretary of the Women in Enterprise CPG, commented: “This is a serious problem. The data provided by Scottish Widows during our session on the gender gap in pension provision, backed by the experiences of Brenda Santimano, shows that urgent changes are required to address pension provision for women business owners. it is unfair that women still face such challenges in accessing finance for their businesses and this situation undermines their ability to adequately provide for their retirement.”

WES is now urging policy makers to take urgent action to tackle the growing pension disparity, including to make funding available specifically for micro and SME women-owned businesses. The call to action comes as WES analyses the data from the pilot activity on its new crowdfunding platform, designed to help women business owners raise capital to progress their businesses.

The full Cross Party Group on Women in Enterprise 2023 report can be accessed at Women’s Enterprise Scotland | Cross Party Group (wescotland.co.uk).  

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