What Businesswomen Really Want

The Journal (Newcastle, England), April 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

What Businesswomen Really Want


Byline: By Rebekah Ashby

Is there enough support for female entrepreneurs in the North-East? Rebekah Ashby investigates.

The Journal reported last week that Chancellor Gordon Brown has awarded the North-East just pounds 80,000 to pilot a new women's enterprise unit.

With the average woman-owned business costing pounds 4,000 to get off the ground and creating an average of 1.5 jobs, the sum is likely to create just 20 businesses and was branded `derisory' by some leading businesswomen.

They labelled the Chancellor toothless and insulting and said the Government must "put its money where its mouth is" when it comes to supporting women into business.

We also revealed that regional development agency One NorthEast has allocated just pounds 180,000 ( or 0.07% of its pounds 258m 2006/07 economic development budget ( to specifically-targeted business support for women. It pointed out this must be put into the context of the mainstream business support it also funds including the Business Link network ( support that is equally available to men and women.

So the real question is what the women running businesses in this region want to help them run their business? Do they want women-only networks? Do they want to be part of the mainstream? Or do they want a healthy mix of both?

Women Into the Network (WIN)

THE main organisation supporting women's enterprise in the region is Durham University's Women Into the Network.

Set up seven years ago by programme director Dinah Bennett, the One NorthEast-backed programme now has 1,600 members and has won two European Commission awards for best practice.

Whether women are thinking of branching out on their own, are new to business, already established or want to support other women in business, Women Into the Network offer a range of activities.

These include networking, providing inspirational role models and the highlight of the North-East's women in business calendar ( The North-East Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

Dinah Bennett said: "Research has shown that any economy which has both specifically-targeted and mainstream support has done infinitely better.

"Mainstream support often doesn't understand the needs of women, that's old women, young women, ethnic minority women, disadvantaged women ( it's a very diverse group.

"If you get disadvantaged women running their own businesses, for example, then the knock-on effects are huge.

"Around 80% of care responsibilities, and that's not just children but elder care, are borne by women so you need to think differently about how to support women to juggle those responsibilities.

"Women also say that in the early days, when confidence may be an issue, that they want women-only events. When they grow in confidence, that's when it's about integrating mainstream support and women-only support.

"It's about access to finance, women can have very fragmented credit histories and might have a 12-year gap in employment because they have been raising children, and targeted initiatives fully understand the needs of this very diverse client group."

Mentoring Women Into Business

A NEW mentoring scheme launched by Durham Business School's Women Into the Network provides North-East women entrepreneurs with a head start on the road to building successful businesses.

Mentoring Women into Business aims to support women from a variety of backgrounds and stages of business development, from pre-start to growth. The entrepreneurs will be matched with male and female mentors and, with access to a new website, there is support available 24 hours a day for newcomers and experienced businesswomen alike.

The initiative was developed from the GLEAM (Graduate Learning of Entrepreneurship Accelerated through Mentoring) programme, which teaches the practice of business to graduates wanting to set up their own company. …

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