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Female Entrepreneurs

Volume 564: debated on Thursday 20 June 2013

We commissioned the Women’s Business Council to investigate how we can maximise women’s contribution to economic growth as they have a vital role to play. In response to the council’s recent excellent report, the Government will publish an action plan this autumn. It will highlight how we will improve web-based support for entrepreneurs and work with the British Bankers Association to improve women’s awareness of the financial support available to women entrepreneurs.

I thank the Minister for that answer. The Prince’s Trust is doing sterling work to support young entrepreneurs in the north-east, such as Emma Reilly in my constituency who set up a web-based design business with its support. It is worrying, however, that the Government’s new enterprise allowance is reaching only 30% of women. What are the Government going to do to ensure that that help reaches women to help more female entrepreneurs come into the market?

First, the hon. Lady is right to highlight the excellent work done by the Prince’s Trust and I am delighted that it has been helping entrepreneurs in her constituency. It is important that we ensure that the schemes available to support growing businesses are available to women as well as men and are marketed in a way that attracts women as well as men to apply for them. There are some positive points, such as the start-up loans fund of more than £24 million that has already been approved. More than 40% has already gone to women, but the Government recognise that this is an issue where we can and will do more. We are considering that in our response to the Women’s Business Council report.

Next week I am taking a group of A-level maths students to visit British Airways Engineering, including a large number of female mathematicians. What is the Minister doing to broaden girls’ aspirations and career choices?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is important that women and girls are encouraged to take subjects that can lead them into a lot of different careers, whether in entrepreneurship or through science, technology, engineering and maths. We are working with the bodies in the engineering and science industries to make those paths more attractive to women and to encourage them to consider them as positive career options. We are also working further with the Department for Education to follow up on the recommendations of the Women’s Business Council, particularly on careers guidance.