Why it’s time to get behind women in business this international women’s day

While female self-employment has risen dramatically in the UK, profits and employment are falling behind. The Charter aims to help professional advisers – from bankers and lawyers, to business advisers and trainers – better understand and support those new businesses.

There has been a massive increase in female self-employment in the UK since 2008. In the last year alone, 70 per cent of the new self-employed were women.  These job creators have been the heroines of the downturn. And they are ambitious. Some 14 per cent want to hire more staff this year. With nearly 1 million women-led SMEs in the UK that could mean around 140,000 new jobs, according to a government report.

Despite the start-up surge and clear ambitions, women’s businesses get much less support and are less likely to survive. The Charter for Women in Business is a practical initiative to close the opportunity gap.

Prowess Director Erika Watson, who was awarded an MBE for services to women’s enterprise, says: “Small changes to the way that business support is planned and delivered can help many more women succeed. The Charter builds on international best practice and more importantly the women we’ve surveyed give it their full approval. We’re inviting organisations to sign-up to the Charter and let their staff and customers know that they are serious about sharing in women’s business success.”

Last month the government published the Burt Report, calling for ‘inclusive support for women in enterprise.’ It recommended that Local Enterprise Partnerships, take a leading role in promoting diverse business support in their regions.

Davina Tanner, New Anglia LEP Board member and Chief Executive of Britannia Enterprises says: “We’re delighted to support the launch of the Prowess Charter on International Women’s Day. New Anglia LEP is committed to ensuring that we achieve a more balanced workforce that enables growth across Norfolk and Suffolk and we’ve launched an initiative called Economic Equality to help achieve this. As a champion of this agenda we’ve been very keen to ensure that our own organisation’s practises support gender equality. This is why we were the first in line to become a Prowess Charter member and sign up to do the Women in Business self -assessment.”

The Charter for Women in Business is available online at charter.prowess.org.uk. It includes a code of practice, online training and marketing tools which will better equip supporters of start-ups and small companies to help the growing market of women in business to succeed.

Image: Women in business via Shutterstock