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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Women and Co-operative Business

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

At a meeting to launch a piece of research funded by the dti on ‘women and the co-operative business model’, Meg made the following remarks.


Good morning.


I am genuinely pleased to be here this morning. Both the co-operative world and women taking their rightful place in the economic sphere are important areas of my personal history.


I was a director of a co-operative enterprise in the service sector for a number of years, as well as on a local committee of a retail co-operative society. So I know first hand some of the positive benefits for women when looking at the co-operatives as a possible way into the world of business.


Succeeding within a co-operative business is a win-win situation - it can be great for the individual, the business and society as a whole. There’s no doubt in my mind that the co-operative business model offers a lot to women.


However, the lack specific data and case studies in the UK put off women thinking of setting up a co-operative enterprise.  A major influence on all entrepreneurs is knowing others have embarked on similar ventures and made a success.


This is why the DTI agreed to fund Co-operativesUK, to undertake the research work necessary to promote knowledge about the Co-operatives model. We have to raise understanding amongst policy-makers and the business support community. The event today is part of the dissemination of information from this work, and will be followed by a series of regional events. 


The leaflet that has been produced as part of this work, which is in your delegate packs, contains case studies on successful co-operatives. They have been started and are being successfully run by women.  Producing literature such as this helps to inspire the next generation of budding female entrepreneurs - our daughters, nieces and grand-daughters. 


The task of encouraging greater numbers of women to be enterprising and entrepreneurial is important - to our economy, and our society. Business enterprise is a vital contributor to the health of our economy, and the diversity of opportunity within society. Enterprise increases productivity, competition and innovation. It creates employment, increases prosperity and revitalises our communities.


The benefits of getting more women to think of themselves as possible entrepreneurs are plain. If we had the same rate of female owned start-ups as in the USA, we would have at least half a million more businesses. This would have a major impact on productivity, employment and prosperity.


Women comprise 51% of the UK population, and 46% of those active in the labour market. Anyone wanting to boost entrepreneurial activity would be plain silly to ignore women - but that’s what society has been doing for too long.  Nearly a million women are self-employed in the UK. Despite this, only 27% of the total self-employed are women.


Government recognises that the pace of development needs to be accelerated. We have to tap the massive economic potential represented by the development of women’s enterprise. 


My colleague, Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, approved the establishment of the Task Force on Women’s Enterprise in November 2005.


The Task Force is being established as an Ad Hoc Advisory body for a fixed three-year period. It will provide high profile leadership to accelerate women’s enterprise development. It will deliver the greatest impact in the shortest time.


The Task Force will be chaired by a prominent businessperson and will report to Alan Johnson. It will have strong links with the Devolved Administrations and leading exponents of women’s enterprise. The Task Force will be at work by this Spring.


The Task Force’s job includes:


  • Ensuring sustainable funding is available for women’s enterprise development in all regions;
  • Gender-proofing of enterprise-related policies nationally and regionally
  • An infrastructure for national statistics, enabling regional, national and international comparison;
  • Improved awareness across Government and in the regions of the economic argument for women’s enterprise development
  • Women’s Enterprise Units (women-friendly business support) in all regions, fully integrated into regional support structures


But to reach current and budding women entrepreneurs, we need to develop approaches that reflect local needs.


That is why we have asked Regional Development Agencies to play a key role in developing effective business support services for women. Each Regional Development Agency has been asked to develop a strategy for incorporating women-friendly business support into mainstream provision.


So the economic case for developing women’s enterprise is clear. We know we need to do more to encourage it. Co-operatives UK have unique expertise in this field. Not only are they part of the co-operative world and want to see it grow and succeed, they also know what the issues are that have held back women from starting and growing businesses.


With this expertise they are helping to identify the practical solutions that will mean that by working together we can encourage and help the future generations of female entrepreneurs the country needs.


Thank you for taking the time to listen. I am sure that you will all have a worthwhile and enjoyable day.


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