Unleash the Power of Wonder Women; Nearly 60 per Cent of All New University Graduates and about 80 per Cent of Students in Business Administration Are Women, but Is Gender Stereotyping and Prejudice in the Workplace Still Holding Women Back? at a Major Event in the West Midlands This Week, Business Reporter JENNY WADDINGTON Heard How "Girl Power" Could Be the Key to Success

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UNLEASHING the full potential of women in the business world could help to bridge Coventry and Warwickshire's productivity gap, according to one of the region's leading enterprise figures.

Angela Maxwell, the former driving force behind cappuccino machine maker Fracino and now director of Acuwomen, made the rallying call after helping to stage a major European Commission event on breaking gender stereotypes.

She pointed to the simple fact that if women started businesses at the same rate as men we would see 15,000 more starts-ups each year.

And this could equate to more than 50,000 jobs and add billions to the local economy.

While the Advantage West Midlands Enterprise Board member admits that there is a general need for women to show more self-confidence, she is equally adamant that gender stereotyping, unequal pay and prejudice in the workplace has held females back in senior blue chip organisations, the public sector and when con-siderinbecoming their own boss.

"Coventry and Warwickshire have a fantastic opportunity to tackle this issue before any area in the UK and it is up to everyone in the region to get involved, from local authorities and business support services to multi-national businesses and our SMEs," explained Angela.

She continued: "In an era when competitiveness is absolutely crucial, it is unforgivable not to make the most of the talent readily available to us and to achieve this we need to combat gender stereotypes and strive for equality at all levels."

The three-day European Commission event - held at the Ikon Galley this week - attracted more than 50 delegates and provided a mix of keynote speeches and interactive seminars and workshops from expert trainers in the field.

It also provided a platform to announce latest statistics on women in business, with many companies unaware that nearly 60 per cent of all new university graduates and about 80 per cent of students in business administration are women.

Females are also in charge of over 70 per cent of purchasing decisions.

"I am delighted that the West Midlands attracted this major event, which is running concurrently across 27 different EU states," said Angela.

"This puts us ahead of the game and, through our ability to attract policy makers, business support professionals and companies, we have started a movement which will hopefully overcome the problems and provide a level playing field in terms of opportunity and salary. …