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Female Entrepreneurs

Volume 564: debated on Thursday 13 June 2013

Women play an important role in growing our economy. We commissioned the Women’s Business Council to investigate how we can help remove barriers and maximise women’s contribution to economic growth. Following its excellent report last week, the Government will publish an action plan this autumn that will improve web-based support for entrepreneurs. We will work with the British Bankers Association to improve women’s awareness of the financial support available.

If women set up businesses at the same rate as they do in the US, benefits of up to £42 billion could be delivered to the economy. When I recently organised Start-up Challenge seminars for women in my constituency, they were full of excellent, enthusiastic and dynamic women who were keen to be entrepreneurs. What more can we do to stretch out to those women and encourage more of them to be great entrepreneurs for the country?

If women were setting up and running new businesses at the same rate as men, we would have an extra 1 million female entrepreneurs in this country. Despite progress in recent years, women remain less likely than men to start a business, so we have more to do.

The Secretary of State has recently made a number of welcome speeches in support of women in engineering, enterprise and the boardroom, but unfortunately, they are not matched by action from his Government. Why, for example, has the number of investments by the Aspire fund, which was set up specifically to support women-led businesses, fallen under his Government to a quarter of what it was under the previous Government?

Forty per cent. of start-up loans have been taken up by women, which is an important advance. In the two-month period from 1 March, 12% of FTSE 100 board appointments and 40% of FTSE 250 board appointments were secured by women.