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Women Entrepreneurs

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

We have 1 million women entrepreneurs, who contribute £60 billion GVA—gross value added—per annum to the UK economy. If we had the same rate of women’s entrepreneurship in the UK as there is in the USA, we would have 700,000 more businesses adding to the wealth and well-being of the UK economy. I am actively tackling the barriers that prevent women from setting up their own businesses. For instance, I am addressing the gender penalty that women face when borrowing from banks, whereby they pay 1 per cent. more than men over the base rate. That is over £80 a week more in interest payments each month on a £100,000 loan, just for being a woman. It should make no difference whether a man or a woman walks into a bank; each should walk out with the same deal. I am meeting the British Bankers Association later today to discuss and address that issue.

There is a welcome growth in the number of women entrepreneurs right across the UK, but it is interesting to note that recent studies show that the growth is larger in the service sector. What more can we do to encourage women entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector of our economy? That is extremely important, especially in the west midlands.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. That must be achieved through both our work on education and skills training and our efforts to encourage entrepreneurship among women, especially as they take the decision to set up their own businesses at a different time from me—perhaps after they have had their first child, or when their children have left home. Such work to encourage women into entrepreneurship in manufacturing will be an important aspect of righting the situation.