“There is a strong case for providing more support for women who want to set up their own businesses,” the Government’s advisory body for women’s business has reported.
The report calls for:
- The creation of a new portal (or app) for advice and support that provides a route-map into enterprise, highlights opportunities and provides skills self-assessment.
- Better marketing of support services to ensure that they are inclusive, “in recognition of the differences between men and women entrepreneurs”.
- Promotion of access to finance information to women entrepreneurs.
- Increased availability of role models, to be delivered via the Government’s newly appointed entrepreneur in residence.
There are also some recommendations around enterprise education in colleges and schools, with calls for a new module for young people on starting a business.
The full report is available here.
Finding support and information
The majority of new businesses now turn to the internet first when they start a business, the report is right to highlight the need for high-quality and interactive online resources.
And business support that is available should be better marketed to encourage more inclusive take-up. But that marketing has to go beyond superficial ‘paint it pink’ promotions. It needs to include eligibility rules and programme design as well. For example, programmes targeted at high-growth potential businesses often measure that potential by the level of profit a business intends to achieve. The problem is that men notoriously give more ambitious targets which they are much less likely to meet; women are more modest and more likely to exceed their targets!
There is also a clear need for better information about funding for women entrepreneurs, which takes into account women’s interests and experiences. Here at Prowess that’s evidenced by the huge popularity of our Guide to Finance for Women in Business, which has recently been developed into a popular and engaging training tool.
Doors to women-friendly support are closing
All of those new resources will help. But they should be a complement, not a replacement, for the support that most women in business are most likely to choose and value when it is available: local women-friendly business training and coaching.
Instead, substantive cuts to those services continue. Last month one of the UK’s longest-established women’s enterprise support organisations, WEETU, closed its doors after 25 years. As WEETU says in its closing press release: “The number of women who are unemployed is at a record 25-year high; women’s unemployment has gone up 18% since the start of the recession against 1% for men. Increasingly women are turning to self-employment with women accounting for more than half the net rise in self-employment since the start of the recession. It is a sad commentary on the economic climate that we have to stop delivering support for women seeking to find new economic opportunities at a time when demand for our services has never been higher.”
The Women’s Business Council will continue to meet every six months to monitor progress and will publish a report in one year’s time to put on public record what has been achieved.
Click on the infographic video below for an overview of the full report: