Six-figure funding boost to help close gender gap

Funding of £200,000 has been unveiled for projects to support more women into business and tackle the gender gap.

Jamie Hepburn MSP and Lynne Cadenhead, chair of Womens Enterprise Scotland (WES) with WES ambassadors from across Scotland. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane Photography

Scottish minister for employability and training Jamie Hepburn has revealed the £200,000 boost, with Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) to benefit from a share of the sum to deliver the Women in Enterprise ambassadors programme.

WES said it will also work with partners across the enterprise networks to deliver a report on international best practice towards tackling the gender gap within enterprise support.

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The news also comes as a motion raised by Jackie Baillie MSP flagging the need to tackle the gender gap in enterprise north of the Border was debated at the Scottish Parliament, coinciding with Global Entrepreneurship Week and recognising the work of WES in promoting and backing women into business as well as raising the need for a "gender-appropriate approach to enterprise and growth policies to meet the needs of women-led businesses".

Baillie said just 1 per cent of large businesses in Scotland are female-led, and the number heading small to medium-sized enterprises has fallen to 20 per cent from 22 per cent.

"We can and must do so much better than this. We need a step-change in effort if we are to create opportunities to grow women’s enterprises and unlock the potential that is there,” she said.

In addition to the parliamentary motion, a team of WES ambassadors spoke to MSPs at the invitation of the newly-established cross-party group on women in enterprise, and were joined by a team of participants in a recent business-creation course for military partners.

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Hepburn said: “This government is committed to closing the gender gap in enterprise, which is why I am delighted to be participating in this cross-party group... The Women in Enterprise CAN DO Ambassador Programme, delivered by [WES], offers aspiring business women a fantastic opportunity to learn from their peers. The benefits of the programme go beyond the direct help it provides to individuals.”

Lynne Cadenhead, chair of WES, said that amid global economic uncertainty, "Scotland can no longer afford to allow to leave the talents and skills of enterprising women on the table.

"As a nation, we need to live up to our reputation for innovation and entrepreneurialism by creating an environment where women-led business can flourish, succeed and contribute to the wider economy. The time for action with regards to improving the landscape for women in enterprise is now."