Call for support of women in business to avoid ‘tsunami’ of problems

The study is calling for enterprise policy that is productive and fair for women. Picture: contributed.The study is calling for enterprise policy that is productive and fair for women. Picture: contributed.
The study is calling for enterprise policy that is productive and fair for women. Picture: contributed.
Women face a “tsunami” of job losses and business closures without suitable intervention by the UK and devolved governments, according to a new report that includes input from female business leaders in Scotland.

The study was published yesterday by the Women’s Enterprise Policy Group (WEPG), and it is calling for the development of enterprise policy that is “productive and fair” for women.

The report includes six proposed key action areas to address the gaps in Covid-19 enterprise support for women, and the WEPG is now urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to bring them to the policy table to help shape policy that “Builds Back Better” for women entrepreneurs, for the economy and for society.

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The WEPG is a coalition of top female entrepreneurs, researchers, business support providers and social entrepreneurs from across the UK.Scotland is represented by Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), rural enterprise experts GrowBiz and social enterprise Radiant and Brighter.

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The WEPG also cited the finding that in Scotland, pre-Covid-19 data showed women-led employer businesses had already dropped 6 percentage points to 15.5 per cent of the business base.

The report says woman face extra challenges such as childcare responsibilities, gender bias and access to finance – and need measures to facilitate their survival and growth amid being disproportionately affected by the economic impact of coronavirus.

The document is titled Framework of Policy Actions to Build Back Better for Women’s Enterprise’ and comes as Scottish schools start to re-open and in the wake of the Scottish Government postponing commitments to extend early years childcare.

Examples of specific recommendations in the report include extending the eligibility of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme for new traders and the part-time self-employed and exclude maternity periods from payment calculations. Also on the list is investing in expanding the childcare sector, helping the 600,000 mothers who are self-employed or business-owners.

Anne Meikle, policy manager at WES, said: “We are being contacted by women-owned businesses across Scotland who are being turned down, or do not qualify for, many of the support packages which have been released.

“It seems that some of the past progress for working women will be lost in the wake of the pandemic. Engaging women’s enterprise agencies and women entrepreneurs in the policy decision-making process instead of after the event would help to deliver improved outcomes for all.”

Julia Rouse, co-chair of the WEPG, noted that only about a third of all small firms in the UK are led by women. She added: “Equality simply cannot wait until the pandemic passes because Covid-19 is causing further inequality.”

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