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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Promoting Women’s Enterprise

Monday, June 18, 2007

At the launch of the London ‘Women’s Enterprise Action Plan’ Meg made the following remarks.

 

I am very pleased to be here to launch the London Development Agency’s ‘Women’s Enterprise Action Plan’.

 

I’m sure that developing this plan to promoted women’s enterprise has taken much hard work. I want to thank those responsible.

 

A Few Facts

Since 1997 the number of self-employed women has increased by 100,000 and 37% of the newly self-employed are women. This is an improvement on the situation where only 27% of existing self-employed are female. But it shows that even with this improvement, women are still underrepresented as entrepreneurs.

 

Around 17% of existing businesses are majority female-owned. This level is roughly the same as in other European countries, but much less than the USA. There, over 30% of businesses are majority female owned.

 

We know that increasing the levels of women’s businesses would have clear benefits for the national economy. There are 650,000 women-owned businesses trading now, with a turn-over more than £130 billion. More women’s businesses means greater prosperity, more employment, with wealth more evenly spread between men and women.

 

That’s the big picture, but at the level of the individual it’s also important for us to encourage women’s enterprise.

  

Nobody goes into business - or politics - because they don’t like to work hard, but the chance to have more control over work is powerfully attractive for many women. We know many women start their own business because it gives control over working hours. 21% of women say that family commitments were a reason to become self-employed, compared to only 2% of men.

 

Striking out on your own means taking more control over your life. For many, starting a business can be a route out of inflexible and unrewarding work, well below what that person is capable of. For others it is about fulfilling a long held dream and aspiration.

 

So whether it’s promoting your own idea, developing a business or fitting work around other important things in your life we are determined to provide the right support.

 

The Gap Remains Wide

Despite some progress in recent years the gap between male and female entrepreneurship in the UK remains wide. Men are still almost twice as likely to start businesses as women, and the gap is wider still for young women. If we had the American level of female business ownership, there would be around 700,000 more businesses generating wealth and employment.   

 

To move the UK towards the USA’s levels of entrepreneurship, the Government has established the Task Force on Women's Enterprise to advise on steps to increase levels of women's business ownership in the UK.

 

The Task Force will tell Government and the main providers of business support, like the Regional Development Agencies and Business Links, how they can improve the service they give to businesswomen. It is co-chaired by Pam Alexander, the CEO of SEEDA, and one of its key objectives is to ensure that women have access to the high-quality support and advice they require to start and grow their businesses.   

 

I fully expect the Task Force to shake up the systems of support, ensuring that best practice is shared and applied amongst those responsible for giving business support.

I am glad that the London Development Agency is showing its commitment to providing this support and advice. 

 

Part of supporting and giving advice needs to come from those women already in business. My colleague Margaret Hodge, Minister for Enterprise, announced recently that we want to recruit 1,000 businesswomen willing to share their experience with other women just starting out.

 

In setting up this ‘Ambassadors’ network’ we recognise that successful female entrepreneurs can act as an inspiration for the next generation of women considering or just starting businesses. The aim is for these ‘Ambassadors’ to be pro-active, developing the role through one-to-one engagement, networks and business sectors. I hope some of you may be willing to help out with this.

 

Looking at today’s agenda I can see that you have a good day in front of you. I hope you will contribute to the sharing of experience and ideas, and enjoy it!  

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