Putting women at the heart of our growth agenda
In my last blog I touched on the challenge we’re facing in bringing about economic recovery through growth. This is hugely important – the Government’s No.1 priority in fact.
But making it happen isn’t just about supporting different sectors of industry and creating particular economic conditions. It’s also about creating opportunity. Providing everyone with the opportunity to contribute to our economic recovery, and not hiding behind outdated stereotypes and practices.
The things that concern women are the same things that concern men, employment, debt, growth and making sure that their children won’t be saddled will bills that they can’t afford
I feel very privileged that the Prime Minister has asked me to lead on women and equalities. Along with Helen Grant and Jo Swinson, I am focused on driving forward our plans to build a fairer and more equal society.
My starting point is a simple one. I believe firmly that a key part of boosting growth will be understanding that women are at the heart of the UK’s economic future, and ensuring we do all we can to help them make the most of their talents.
If female entrepreneurship reached the same levels as the US, there would be 600,000 extra women-owned businesses, contributing an extra £42 billion to the economy.
So what is the Government doing to help make this happen? Well, we are already providing a range of support for female entrepreneurs and removing barriers to women achieving their goals. Last year we established the Women’s Business Council to advise the Government on how to improve the business environment so women can maximise their success. They’ll be reporting next year and I can’t wait to see what they have to say and what they’re going to recommend.
Last year we also announced plans to recruit and train over 15,000 new mentors to support anyone setting up and growing a business, including 5,000 specifically for new and existing female entrepreneurs. Already 15,125 have now signed up, 6,221 of them women. I was also pleased to be able to provide a further £100,000 to the pot to make sure women know about the help available to them.
And we have been supporting women’s enterprise in rural areas by providing £2 million over the next three years to turn their great business ideas into profitable and sustainable businesses. These businesses will additionally benefit from the rural broadband strategy, the benefits of which will be seen across the UK.
Equality through transparency
But we also need to be able to measure how far we’re getting. And that brings me on to transparency which, I believe, is a really powerful tool and has driven real change in the public sector already. We are encouraging companies to sign up to the Government’s Think, Act, Report, a voluntary initiative to improve gender equality at work by encouraging companies to publish details of how women are represented and rewarded. We’re not in the business of naming and shaming, but we are hoping to nudge companies with a good record to be proud of, and show off, what they’ve done.
But our ambition is to go further still to harness women’s skills and unlock their full potential. I am looking forward to working closely with Jo and Helen over the coming months to ensure we continue placing women front and centre on the commercial stage. So watch this space.