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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Women make good entrepreneurs - let’s continue to encourage them

Monday, January 2, 2006

The following article was published in the winter 2005/06 edition of WiRED, the publication of Women in Rural Enterprise. For further details visit: http://www.wireuk.org/



Nearly a million women are self-employed and this number has increased by around 10% over the last four years. This is progress. However, there is now widespread acceptance that the potential for women entrepreneurs means things could be even better, particularly as women make up 52% of the population and 46% of those active in the labour market. The reality is that women are an overlooked area for economic growth that is just beginning to be tapped.


If we had the same rate of female owned start-ups as in the USA, we would have 750,000 more businesses and this would have a major impact on our productivity growth, prosperity and employment.


Could we emulate the USA? On the evidence I have seen, why not? I am aware of many outstanding examples of women entrepreneur success stories up and down the country. Let me cite just two (and I make no apology that the two examples are from Sheffield, where my constituency is).


diva - a marketing and PR company owned and managed by women - was established in 1997. It has won many awards and continues to go from strength to strength featuring in the top 10 of the inner city 100. diva is a leading Sheffield SME.


Clean & Bright were set up in April 2003 in Longley, Sheffield. A feasibility study identified a niche in the cleaning market - organisations in the voluntary and community sector were keen to contract with a social economy enterprise. At the outset the company was Anita and a broom cupboard full of equipment but now she employs 20 people and has 15 secure contracts. The company tries to employ women and men returning to work - flexibility is a key feature allowing employees to combine personal commitments with work.


What do these two stories tell us? That women can and are taking the initiative and daring to succeed in the small business market.


We in Government recognise the contribution women entrepreneurs are making to the economy as they help themselves - the two are inextricably connected - but we are aware that more can be done to help and encourage women.


More encouragement is needed. Despite the numerous success stories, despite the increase in numbers of women entrepreneurs, only 26% of self-employed are women and only 19% of all businesses are majority-led by women.


This is why Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) have been encouraged to help support women entrepreneurs. Some RDAs have appointed regional women’s enterprise co-ordinators. The message is clear. It is not a diversity or equality issue to help women fulfil their entrepreneurial potential, but an economic imperative.


At the moment, women-owned businesses contribute about £70 billion to Gross Value Added; about 25% of the UK total, mainly from the growing service sector. Just think how the national economy could benefit if there were more women entrepreneurs.


I know women make good entrepreneurs. I am determined, as Minister for Women, to do all I can to help more women fulfil their entrepreneurial potential.

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