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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Yorkshire Forward Ladies

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

At an event held in the House of Commons Meg made the following remarks to ‘Forward Ladies’ - a group of women entrepreneurs from Yorkshire.


Can I first welcome you to the House of Commons, well to the terrace anyway! It’s good to see so many Yorkshire women here; I do hope you will enjoy yourself - but no chucking the empties into the river!


Seriously it is good to see women entrepreneurs together. The country needs more entrepreneurs to bring in new ideas, new energy to business. I think it’s terrific that more and more women are seeing that they can use their skills and ideas to set up new concerns.


At present we have 34% of the newly self-employed people being women. This improves on the existing stock, as only a quarter of existing self-employed people are female. But it illustrates that women are still underrepresented as entrepreneurs. At a regional level, entrepreneurial activity among women in Yorkshire and the Humber is at a similar level to that in other English regions, except for London and the South East, where it is substantially higher. 


Around 15% of existing businesses are majority female-owned. This level is roughly the same as other European countries, but much less than the United States of America. There, over 30% of businesses are female owned. If we had American level of female business ownership, there would be three quarters of a million more businesses.


Increasing the levels of women’s businesses would have clear benefits for the national economy. The 650,000 women-owned businesses now trading turn over more than £130 billion. More women’s businesses means greater prosperity, more evenly spread between men and women.


A further reason to support and promote women’s businesses is because going into business can fit around the other things in a woman’s life. Nobody goes into business - or politics - because they don’t like to work hard. But combined with working hard is the chance to have more control over your own time, powerfully attractive for many women. Starting a business can be a route out of inflexible and unrewarding work.


Survey’s show that more than half of women started their business because it enables them to have control over their working hours, compared to only a third of men. About 21% of women say that family commitments were a reason to become self-employed, compared to only 2% of men. We have some work to here in getting men to realise that raising children, caring for elderly parents or adults with disabilities is more than just ‘women’s work’.


Government set up the Women’s Enterprise Task Force to advise on what more we should be doing to help and support women who want to set up on their own account. It will advise on how we and the big providers of business support, like Regional Development Agencies and Business Link, can improve the service they give to businesswomen.


We want to draw on the talents and experience of women already in business to help those starting out, or thinking about it. Margaret Hodge, who is the Minister for Enterprise, announced last month that we want to recruit one thousand businesswomen to advise other women. I hope that many of you here today will consider taking on this mentoring and ambassadorial role.


We need to know what kind of support works best. Five Regional Development Agencies have been running women’s business support pilots this financial year. They each have had a particular focus, and in Yorkshire and the Humber, Yorkshire Forward has been looking at the evidence about what kinds of support women find most useful. These trials end in March, and the lessons learned will help determine the type of business support that is provided in the future.


What appears clear is that women’s networks like Forward Ladies provide much needed help, encouragement and advice - particularly during those early days when developing an idea.


Thank you for inviting me to speak. I look forward to hearing the other speakers and then meeting some of you.


The photo shows Etta Cohen, Director of Forward Ladies, with Meg.


For details about Forward Ladies visit: http://www.forwardladies.com/


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