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Female Entrepreneurs

Volume 583: debated on Thursday 3 July 2014

The Government offer a wide range of support to women entrepreneurs—for example, the new enterprise allowance, mentoring, business advice and start-up loans. I also recently announced a £1 million challenge fund specifically to support women to move their businesses online and take advantage of superfast broadband. We know these measures are making a difference, with more women running their own businesses than ever before.

Which particular areas have the Government identified where we can celebrate the success of women entrepreneurs?

There are many different areas, but let me just pick one. The latest statistics from the Federation of Small Businesses show a dramatic increase in the number of women starting up businesses in the retail sector, and high streets across the country are seeing the benefit. Half of all small businesses established in retail in the past two years are primarily owned by women. That is in stark contrast with 20 years ago, when it was less than a quarter. That demonstrates the fundamental role that women are playing in helping the country to recover from recession. I hope that Members on all sides of the House will encourage retail businesses on their high streets to apply for the Future High Streets Forum’s Great British high streets awards.

Nobody doubts the Minister’s commitment to equality, but why are there so few black and Asian women sitting on the boards of our companies?

It is a very good question. There is no doubt that more progress is needed. Earlier this week I was at an event for the 30% Club, which has been campaigning for a voluntary business-led approach, started by Lord Davies, to get more women in particular on the boards of companies. Part of that is about working with executive search companies and asking the chairmen of companies to think differently about appointments. Often the traditional and expected route of a CV is not something that women or others, particularly from black and minority ethnic communities, can put forward. We need to broaden the way in which chairmen of boards, and the boards themselves, appoint new directors.

6. The rise and rise of women in business is boosting growth and opportunity across the country. We have an inspiring role model in Gloucester, in the first female editor of the Gloucester Citizen in its 138-year history, Jenny Eastwood. The chair of the Gloucestershire local enterprise partnership, Diane Savory, is one of only three female chairs of the 39 LEPS. Will my right hon. Friend join me in recognising their achievements, and in encouraging both Jenny and Diane to do even more to promote new female “Gloucesterpreneurs” like Sarah Churchill of the award-winning Artisan Kitchen? (904640)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on coining the new word “Gloucesterpreneurs”, and I hope that he will campaign vigorously under that slogan over the next few months. I am happy to join him in congratulating Gloucestershire Media on its Women in Business awards. Through the work of the Minister for Cities—my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark)—and the Deputy Prime Minister, the Government are focusing on regional growth, city deals and the power of local enterprise partnerships, and on encouraging growth outside London. That is why I am particularly pleased to hear about the new female entrepreneurs in Gloucester who have set up businesses during the past few years.