The brief respite of the Christmas and New Year break provides useful reflection time, and an opportunity (before the inevitable madness resumes) to think some strategic thoughts for the forthcoming year.
I’ve been thinking about what needs to be in place in 2013, to bring about the paradigm shift we need in women’s enterprise development and consequent business growth, in Scotland, but also the UK, Europe and beyond. And how we can keep it relatively simple and streamlined, using resources effectively and developing genuine partnerships and collaborations, to help more women start and grow businesses, for the benefit of the Scottish economy.
It’s the right mix of coordinated expertise, energy and resource, in the right places, which will start to make a real difference. We need to be in a position to influence policy development at all levels. Not just within government, but within business representative bodies, enterprise support agencies, corporates, education institutions and the third sector. This needs to be backed up by a critical mass of practical initiatives, best practice and evidence which is visible, inclusive and contributing to mainstream economic growth.
Why is this important? Well we know there are more than 60,000 female-led businesses already operating in Scotland. If even a quarter of those created one net new job in the next 12 months, there would be a 7% decrease in current unemployment. And encouraging female entrepreneurs brings so many other benefits to the country’s economic and social well-being, even Warren Buffet agrees on that!
Procurement and supplier diversity are important parts of the jigsaw and we need to help organisations such as Women’s Enterprise Connect to create greater awareness of the business opportunities available through corporate business. And public sector procurement, a harder nut to crack, needs to be easier to access (for SMEs in general).
We also need better access to finance for female business owners (from angels/VC and bank finance all the way to micro finance and more innovative sources such as crowd funding), together with quality advice, coaching and mentoring. We’ll be working closely with our strategic partners at RBS on these in 2013. We’re also excited to be working with the new UK Enterprise Research Centre, whose Scottish partner, Strathclyde University’s Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship is our research partner for women’s enterprise research in Scotland.
From a government policy perspective, fortunately we’re starting the new year on an optimistic note – at least here in Scotland. The Scottish Government has made it clear that women’s enterprise is key to future economic development and job creation, and has committed to developing a framework over the next few months. (This is a collaborative process and anyone who would like to contribute to discussions should get in touch with us.) The Westminster government’s current approach to women’s business ownership appears to be more disjointed and less strategic (but there are glimmers of light, more on this in the future.)
We were concerned in 2012 that the ‘women in business’ agenda was being hi-jacked by the ‘women on boards’ debate, following the publication of the Davies report. But there is growing recognition that a different dialogue is needed, focusing on the need for a pipeline of sustainable female-led businesses, which will create the female leaders and potential board directors of the future. So let’s keep the ‘women on boards’ debate proportionate and relevant to the real issues.
Resolutions for 2013? Here are three which are core to WES’s mission:
- Change attitudes to micro-businesses. Businesses are businesses and shouldn’t be put in a box labelled ‘lifestyle’.
- help enterprising women to be more ‘visible’. Challenge male dominated line-ups at business conferences and award ceremonies – and business media coverage which forgets about 52% of the population
- Promote diversity as a business bonus. Entrepreneurs come from all backgrounds, and some of the best innovations and business ideas come from people who have had to overcome adversity, including disabilities and health issues. And we have some amazing female entrepreneurs from immigrant communities who could inspire others.
But we can’t do all of this on our own. We’re already working closely with the Association of Scottish Businesswomen, the 3rdi Magazine, the Entrepreneurial Exchange, Bloom VC and many others to change the face of business in Scotland. If you’d like to join in, please sign up on our website, join our Twitter conversations, or drop us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.
Happy New Year
About the author.
Jackie Brierton is Policy Director and Managing Director for Women’s Enterprise Scotland, http://www.wescotland.co.uk/