WES was founded as a research-led, not-for-profit Community Interest Company that champions women-led and women-owned businesses, and now, to mark a decade under its belt, it has issued an Impact Report outlining achievements in the bid to close the gender gap in enterprise participation, as well as the “significant” work still to be done.
It is also calling for clarity and action from the Scottish Government regarding the commitment to invest £50 million in the creation of a National Women’s Business Centre.
Carolyn Currie, chief executive of WES, said the organisation is “immensely proud” of what it has achieved to date, but she also noted that women-owned businesses in Scotland are now just 14 per cent of SME employer businesses, down from 20.6 per cent in 2017 – and she believes a National Women’s Business Centre model could hugely accelerate Scotland’s economy.
“It is simply inexcusable that we are leaving billions of pounds on the table that could be going into the economy if we just put the resources in place to allow women to achieve their business and economic ambitions,” she added.
"That is why we need meaningful plans for the proposed National Women’s Business Centre realised as soon as possible, to put in place the gender-specific support and resources women need to start and grow sustainable, thriving businesses, and play their rightful role in transforming Scotland’s economy.”
WES, which has also now undergone a major rebranding in conjunction with Glasgow-based 999Design, stresses that women have “fundamentally different” experiences to men in business, with issues around access to finance, disproportionate caring responsibilities, access to networks, mentoring and role models. It added that the pandemic has heightened the disparity, and women are “under considerable pressure” amid such challenges.
In June 2020, WES launched the digital Women’s Business Centre to provide support at the pre-start-up and start-up stages of the business journey, and it now has more than 1,000 members.
WES also recently announced that its Ambassador programme has been boosted, with a cohort of 35 new pioneering Ambassadors, taking the role-model programme to more than 70 women business-owners from across Scotland.