Women’s Enterprise Scotland conference developing 'clear path to rebuilding economy'

Organisers of a conference held in Edinburgh this week focused on catalysing female entrepreneurship say it has laid out a clear path to rebuilding the economy following the pandemic, with gender equality “at the heart of the process”.

The two-day international event has been hosted by Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), which works to close the gender gap in enterprise, and it was held at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Conference Centre at Gogarburn, uniting more than 300 policy-makers, researchers, business-leaders and academics.

WES said it has identified the core themes of the event – finance, leadership, wellbeing, culture, net zero and technology – as the path to economic equality, and the outputs from the conference will focus on these areas.

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From left: Mark Sterritt of the British Business Bank; WES chair Professor Lynne Cadenhead; Criona Courtney of RBS; and WES CEO Carolyn Currie. Picture: Phil Wilkinson Photography.

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The organisation also noted that the conference has taken place in the run-up to the publication of the report from the Advisory Council for Economic Transformation, which will outline proposals for transforming the Scottish economy – and amid women-owned businesses in Scotland now comprising just 14 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprise employer companies, down from 20.6 per cent in 2017.

WES chief executive Carolyn Currie said: “Enabling the economic empowerment of women is vital as we seek to rebuild national and global economies. Through sharing international knowledge and good practice, we can accelerate the actions which will create vibrant, dynamic business ecosystems, with gender equality at the heart of the process.”

Conference speaker Yvette Hopkins, former executive vice-president at the Shetland Space Centre, said: “Leadership is the linchpin to success in order to advance the world we envision for girls and women. We are the Change.”

Criona Courtney, director of commercial banking at RBS, said the lender is seeing more women than ever starting businesses in Scotland, and she believes banks must work with organisations such as WES to help boost mentorship and access to finance.

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