Mentoring scheme aims to help grow women-led firms

An initiative aimed at boosting women-led businesses in Scotland, which has been set up by some of the most prominent names in the sector, is launching today.

From left: Carolyn Currie, Liz Cameron, Jeanette Forbes and Marie Macklin. Picture: Contributed

The Women’s Business Mentoring scheme is a collaboration between the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) network and Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), and will support and mentor firms headed by females.

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Its founders comprise Liz Cameron, chief executive of SCC, Carolyn Currie, chief operating officer of WES as well as Jeanette Forbes of IT firm PCL Group, paper entrepreneur Poonam Gupta of PG Paper, Petra Wetzel of West Brewery and Marie Macklin, executive chair of investment vehicle Macklin Partnerships.

The scheme aims to match mentors and mentees “to create a self-supporting, collaborative community who understand the specific challenges faced by women in business, whether it is accessing finance, overcoming gender bias or managing family responsibilities alongside a business”.

WES said it recently carried out research revealing that mentoring was cited by more than half of respondents as the leading support area critical to business growth, and a further 82 per cent said having a mentor had made a difference to their business.

Currie said women “seek out business advice in the form of mentoring and coaching rather than on a consultancy basis, and we know there is a clear need for more business women as mentors, since mixed-sex mentoring relationships may not always be of benefit for everyone”.

She added that just 20 per cent of Scottish SMEs are majority-led by women, while Cameron said: “I am delighted to have Scotland’s most recognisable and talented business women on board, which reflects the strength of female talent in Scotland, but also our commitment to give back to Scotland, grow our economy and contribute to our local communities.”

Wetzel said mentors can bring “a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight to a business. I look forward to personally mentoring aspiring women in business and giving back to the business community.”

Gupta, recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the 2017 Scottish SME Business Awards, said that for many women in business, talents and ideas “can often be overlooked, holding them back and preventing contributions to our economy.

“I have seen first-hand how a business mentor can bring new perspectives, new solutions and new techniques to overcoming challenges and enabling success, and I look forward to doing exactly that with Scotland’s next generation of women in business.”

Macklin added: “We’ve all had someone who supported us when we needed it most and showed us the way. It’s only right that we find time to give back and help future leaders fulfil their true potential.”