Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When the Girls Mean Business; Opinion

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When the Girls Mean Business; Opinion

Article excerpt

Byline: Louise Richley

THERE'S a song which begins "sometimes it's hard to be a woman" and whenever I hear it, I think how relevant it is to me, and other women, in what is essentially still a man's world - the world of business.

Recent research shows that women make up 29% of the self-employed in the UK while 15% (or 700,000) of the 4.8 million enterprises in the UK are majority-led by women. The entrepreneurial rates for men are roughly the same in the UK as the US, however women in the US are twice as likely to be entrepreneurially active as women in the UK.

The comparison with the US really strikes a chord with me because if the UK could achieve the same levels of female entrepreneurship as the US, we would gain three quarters of a million more businesses.

The key difference is that in the USA, the Women's Business Act 1988 put in place long-term infrastructure to support women's enterprise development. Since then, women's business ownership has increased significantly.

I would argue that there is a definite case for such legislation coupled with an enterprise task force to champion female entrepreneurship in the UK. It's a fact that if women started businesses at the same rate as men, we would have 150,000 extra start-ups each year. Small businesses are the very lifeblood of the UK economy and a female-led surge in small business creation could have profoundly positive repercussions for the UK economy as a whole.

The news isn't all negative, however, as women in business have come on leaps and bounds since the late nineties when I set up my company, Beyond Digital Solutions Ltd.

For a start, most networking organisations were patronised almost exclusively by middle-aged and middle-class men in suits, while nowadays, at least, there exists a healthy mix of genders and backgrounds. Back then, being a women in business was seen as something unusual, and you very quickly became pigeon-holed as either a ruthless entrepreneur and "Margaret Thatcher of the business world" wannabe, or else derided as a cottage industry "mumpreneur".

To a large extent, I believe that sort of narrow-mindedness no longer infects the business world, as women in business are taken far more seriously these days. …

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