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Female-led Businesses

Volume 736: debated on Wednesday 12 July 2023

4. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help increase the number of female-led businesses. (905952)

I am working with Cabinet colleagues to harness the skills, innovation and talent of UK female entrepreneurs, and widen opportunities for the next generation of women setting up businesses. That is why we launched a women-led high-growth enterprise taskforce. Building on the work of the Rose review, it brings together some of the country’s most successful female entrepreneurs, led by the founder of Starling Bank, Anne Boden.

I thank the Minister for her answer. We have brilliant successful female entrepreneurs across Anglesey, including Laurel Knight at Medic 1, Lynne Farr at the Beaumaris Artisan Market, Helen Evans at the Amlwch Artisan Studio, and Jo Weir at Beau’s Tea Rooms. We also have some fabulous successful male entrepreneurs such as Celfyn and Emrys Furlong. They are supported by organisations such as Alison Cork’s Make It Your Business, the British Library’s Business and IP Centre, the Federation of Small Businesses Wales, and Small Business Saturday UK. How are this Government supporting those organisations to broaden their reach and empower even more fabulous female entrepreneurs?

My hon. Friend rightly mentions some of the highly successful initiatives led by entrepreneurs, male and female, across Anglesey, which we fully support. Those are exactly the sort of organisations that we like to see flourish across the UK. Just last week, I spoke to the women and enterprise all-party group, alongside my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey). That was attended by female entrepreneurs from across the country, who talked about how the Government are investing in women, and how the Rose review and the high-growth enterprise taskforce are having an impact on their lives and businesses.

Pathways, a new approach for women and enterprise, was commissioned by the Scottish Government. It has begun to implement, along with key stakeholders, including enterprise agencies, the Scottish National Investment Bank and private investors, ways to include under-represented parts of society in the business system. What steps are the UK Government taking to weave inclusivity through the business support system in a similar fashion to that in Scotland?

We believe that businesses are best placed to do that themselves, and we provide as much advice, guidance and support as possible. For example, the British Business Bank has led many schemes and initiatives to promote inclusivity in the workplace. However, if there is something specific where the hon. Gentleman thinks there is a gap in the market, I would be happy to hear about such an initiative.

Under the Conservatives, just 12% of executive directors of FTSE 250 companies are women—a gap that will not close until 2058 at the current rate. Women who want to go into business cannot wait for the Conservatives to get their act together. They need a new deal for working people, a review of the gender pay gap, and a menopause action plan in the workplace. That is Labour’s pro-business, pro-women plan to smash the glass ceiling and break down the barriers. Does the Minister have a plan?

I am afraid that the shadow Front-Bench spokeswoman is confusing all sorts of different things. FTSE directors are not the ones who need support getting into the workplace. She is talking about a menopause action plan, but we have had one, completed and delivered it, while Labour Members are just talking about bringing one in, which shows that they are not paying attention. We are the only ones who will be doing what is right to promote gender equality in the workplace.