'Glaring' gender disparity revealed regarding grant funding amid pandemic

There has been a renewed push to prioritise women-led businesses in Scotland being able to tap into key financial support after new data has revealed the “glaring” gender disparity in access to grant funding for such firms during the pandemic.

Figures released today by Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) and data analysis company mnAI have been produced analysing data of grants from the £30 million Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund (CTHEHF) and the £120m Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund (PERF), showing that women-led companies comprised just 13.3 per cent of the total successful applications for grant funding.

The overall value of funding received by women was only 10.6 per cent of the total funding deployed.

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The funds were made available in 2020 and were designed to provide additional grant funding to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) vital to Scotland’s local or national economy but made vulnerable by the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to tourism, hospitality, and creative industry companies experiencing hardship as a result of coronavirus.

'This data provides us with a stark insight on the grant funding received by women-led companies during the pandemic,' says WES CEO Carolyn Currie. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane Photography.

A gender-disaggregated analysis of the data by mnAI has shone a spotlight on the disbursement of this grant funding to women-led companies during Covid-19.

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Female-led companies received 15.7 per cent of the CTHEHF funding and for PERF, it was just 9.7 per cent. Men were more likely than women to gain funding across every industry sector, including the care sector, which is heavily dominated by women. In the majority of local authority regions (17 out of 32) women-led companies received less than a tenth of the total grant funding and three regions allocated no PERF grants to women-owned/led companies at all.

WES chief executive Carolyn Currie said the data has provided a “stark insight”, adding: “Even when grant support is made available to businesses, structural inequalities prevail and limit women’s access to crucial funding. Urgent, targeted action is required to ensure women’s businesses in Scotland can access the financial resources they need to recover, grow and make their rightful contribution to the Scottish economy.”

Access to finance is one of five core themes in the WES Strategic Framework and Action Plan, co-developed by WES and the Scottish Government in 2014 and refreshed in 2017. The latter update highlighted the importance of measurement and gender-disaggregated data.

Ms Currie – recently announced as Entrepreneur in Residence to help women in business at Edinburgh's QMU – added: “Now is the time to implement a Women’s Business Centre model, provide the expert business support women business owners need, and train more advisers in the provision of gender-aware business support.

"Gender diversity powers radical, step-change innovation and Scotland needs women’s businesses to boost our productivity. We are grateful to mnAI for their assistance with this analysis and look forward to working together with them in the future to provide the data and insight required to achieve transformational economic growth.”

Research in 2018 found women-owned companies contribute £8.8 billion to the Scottish economy every year.

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mnAI boss and founder John Cushing commented: “’We are delighted to partner with [WES] and provide them with the vital data, insight and analysis on the Scottish SME landscape that will power the research needed to both inform decision-making and to champion female entrepreneurship across Scotland.''

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