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Women in Business

Volume 579: debated on Thursday 10 April 2014

9. What recent steps he is taking to support women in business and encourage more women to enter business. (903660)

The Government offer a wide range of support to new businesses, for example through the growth accelerator, the new enterprise allowance and mentoring. The latest figures show that over 37% of start-up loans have gone to female entrepreneurs and one in five FTSE 100 board members are now women. We will continue to work closely with the Women’s Business Council and others to help ensure that more women see starting and growing their own business as a real option.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Over the past couple of years, we have seen one of the fastest rates of new business creation. Does she agree that we need to encourage more female entrepreneurs such as Tracy Wilson and Emma Brown in my constituency who have launched their new child product business, Dribble Stop Tops? What support are the Government giving to help to sustain such businesses in the short and long term?

As the hon. Gentleman highlights, record numbers of women are setting up their own businesses. Female self-employment is growing at four times the rate of male self-employment. More than 6,000 female mentors are available to support entrepreneurs, such as his constituents, who want to set up and grow their own business. The Government have a wealth of information and advice available on and the great business website to support people in the situation that he highlights.

The Minister mentioned in passing the latest figures on women in boardrooms. In responding to those figures, the former Minister for Women, the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), said that we need to be honest that the culture in Britain is not neutral to women and is still “white, male and heterosexual.” Does the Minister agree? If so, what message does she believe the reshuffle sends about changing the situation?

We would probably all agree that the gender and ethnic balance in boardrooms is not as we would like. However, significant progress is being made. At the start of this Parliament, about 12% of FTSE 100 board members were women. The figure is now more than 20% and we are on target to make that a quarter by the election. The Government are taking the matter seriously and working hard to change the culture throughout companies by introducing measures such as flexible working and shared parental leave, which send out the message that the Government think this issue is extremely important. We are working with employers to change the culture in businesses from top to bottom.