Women across Swindon and Wiltshire stand to gain after the area was chosen as one of five that will receive up to £2 million funding for rural growth networks to help female entrepreneurs in remote areas.
Details of the scheme were announced today, as the home secretary revealed almost 5,000 female mentors have joined the government’s drive to kick-start growth by encouraging more women to start or build their own companies.
Home secretary and minister for women and equalities Theresa May said: ‘Women are vital to Britain’s economic future and the support of a mentor will help even more of them fulfil their true potential.
‘The government is working hard to help women make the most of their talents, but we cannot act alone. I’m delighted by these mentors’ commitment to helping budding businesswomen succeed - and to making Britain prosper.’
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: ‘Britain has many talented women who will thrive as these rural growth networks give them the tools they need to launch or develop their own businesses.
‘Women are about half as likely as men to become entrepreneurs and we need to harness their untapped skills. Living in a rural area can also present specific challenges that these projects aim to address.’
The Swindon and Wiltshire local enterprise partnership (LEP) is one of five across the country which will benefit from government funding for rural growth networks to provide tailored support to tackle the barriers that businesswomen face in the area.
Enterprising military wives will be given a helping hand as the LEP focus on helping people in the armed forces and their partners succeed in business.
Other inspiring women in the region who could benefit include Diana Short, 43, who created award-winning chocolate company lick the spoon in Corsham after quitting a successful career as a chef to work for herself when she became a mum. Green entrepreneur Juliet Davenport, who founded the UK’s only 100 per cent renewable electricity supplier good energy in Chippenham, also welcomed the additional support.
If women started businesses at the same rate as men there would be an additional 150,000 start-ups a year, and if female entrepreneurship reached the same levels as the US it would contribute an extra £42 billion to the economy.
The £2 million has been allocated to projects dedicated to women as part of a £15 million package of support for the five rural growth networks from the department for environment, food and rural affairs that is expected to create more than 3,000 new jobs and 700 businesses.
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: ‘Women who want to go back to work or set up their own company should not be held back by living in remote places. We want to help all women across the country turn their great business ideas into profitable rural businesses.
‘Rural growth networks will create thousands of new jobs and hundreds of start-up companies by fixing problems rural businesses face, like a shortage of work premises and limited internet access.’
The home secretary also announced updates to a range of additional support for women in business:
- Women’s business council - the council is today publishing the work programme for its one-year mission to identify and break down the barriers to female success;
- Women and banks - The government is revealing the initial findings of its review to ensure women have equal access to the finance they need to start a business;
- ‘Think, act, report’ - case studies are being published today showing how adopting the principles behind the government’s voluntary approach to diversity at work has helped leading firms reap business rewards.
Notes to editors
- Rural entrepreneurs
Case studies of women who will benefit are available from the home office press office.
The Swindon & Wiltshire local enterprise partnership (LEP) plans to use the rural growth networks funding to:
- focus on military personnel and their partners;
- provide specialist advisors, mentoring and coaching support;
- establish a local women’s business network to provide incubator and start-up units specifically tailored to women. These units will offer a ‘virtual assistant’ service to provide administrative support; and
- offer skills development, which will include access to finance and business planning.
For more details on the projects contact Steve Richards at LEP on 07748 658230.
Case studies and quotes from the mentoring champions are available from the home office press office.
The home secretary pledged to fund the recruitment and training of 5,000 female mentors last November. This is on top of 10,000 (male and female) mentors subsequently announced by the department for business.
Training can be accessed through free workshops or online and distance learning.
Free training will be open to volunteers new to mentoring, those who run their own business with 250 employees or fewer, are business support professionals, or work for a company employing fewer than 250 people.
Mentors are asked to provide a minimum of one hour free business mentoring a month to an owner of a micro, small, or medium sized business over the next two years (or equivalent).
For more details on signing up to become a mentor visit: getmentoring.org
For more information on being mentored visit: mentorsme.co.uk
3. ‘Think, act, report’
Last week, Nomura Bank became the latest major company to publicly commit to promoting gender equality by signing up to ‘think, act, report’, the government’s voluntary scheme for reporting on equality.
To find out more about the benefits of adopting this approach, please see the attached case studies which outline the progress made by some of the companies already taking part.
More information on the Think, Act, Report
4. Women’s business council
The women’s business council has started a year-long probe into how to increase women’s contribution to the economy by identifying the issues they face and finding practical solutions.
The council is today announcing its plan of work. It will use its business expertise to look at women’s entire working life - including education, finding a job or starting a business, juggling childcare and a career, succeeding in senior roles and preparing for retirement. Crucially, the WBC will examine from a business perspective how these issues affect employers’ ability to hire the talent they need.
Women’s business council chair Ruby McGregor-Smith said:
‘This is an exciting opportunity to make a real difference to women’s lives, to business success and to economic growth. We are looking at the entire life-cycle to see what holds women back and what government, business and others can do to address this.’
5. Access to finance
The government is undertaking a review into claims that women are being discriminated against by banks in their lending decisions.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg commissioned the equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, to review the claims made by a 2011 IPPR report called ‘women and banks - are female customers facing discrimination?’. Lynne Featherstone is working with the british bankers’ association, the council for mortgage lenders and other industry bodies to identify actions to address this critical area and ensure female entrepreneurs are confident they have the same access to funds as their male counterparts.
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said:
‘It is completely unacceptable if banks are discriminating against women. Women should receive exactly the same service in accessing financial help as their male counterparts. We are working with the british bankers’ association and other industry representatives to identify what can be done by the financial sector to support women and to set out an action plan. Greater transparency by lenders in the way they go about their business is needed to ensure women have confidence to access the finance they need without the fear of being discriminated against.’
A parallel review on business lending to ethnic minority entrepreneurs and businesses is being conducted by the department for communities and local government.
6. Equal pay audits
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone announced a new safeguard on equal pay last week which will give employment tribunals the power to require an employer who loses an equal pay case to carry out a pay audit, where there is likely to be systemic discrimination.
More details are available here http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/press-releases/businesses-workplace-equality?version=1
7. For more information on any of the above, or to request an interview, please contact the home office press office on 0207 035 3804, 0207 035 3245 or 0207 035 3535.