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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Building on Success

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Meg recently spoke at a national conference on ‘Women’s Enterprise’, her speech is below. The event was organised by Prowess, a national networking and support organisation for women, with assistance from the Regional Development Agencies. A new report, Shared Intelligence, was launched at the conference detailing the impact of women’s enterprise in the UK.



I’d like to thank Erika Watson and her colleagues at Prowess for inviting me to today’s conference, which promises to be an interesting and useful event. And a special thank you to the Regional Development Agencies (RDA) representatives - recognition that women’s enterprise has the potential to boost the economies in all the regions of the UK. By a happy coincidence we are situated in the constituency of Sheffield Heeley, which I happen to represent in Parliament. So full marks to the conference organisers!!      


The Regional Development Agencies have five important objectives:

  • economic development and regeneration,
  • business efficiency and competitiveness,
  • promoting employment,
  • the skills agenda
  • sustainable development.


In all these areas women are involved, but there is now widespread acceptance that the potential for development is huge. Women are an overlooked area for economic growth that is just beginning to be tapped.


With women being 52% 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 us. And that’s just what we as a society have been doing until recently. If we are to realise ‘prosperity for all’ the potential that is currently being squandered has to be encouraged and supported.


We know that if we had the same rate of female owned start-ups as in the US, we would have 750,000 more businesses and this would have a major impact on our productivity growth, prosperity, and employment. 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.  Nearly a million women are self-employed and this number has increased by around 10% over the last four years.


But despite increases in the numbers, only 26% of the total self-employed are women, and only 15% of all businesses are majority-owned by women.  And this differential between men and women-owned businesses has hardly changed in a decade. We have to do more.


This is where the RDAs, and support organisations and networks like Prowess come in. You have a major role in harnessing the potential, encouraging women to consider self-employment, helping them to become entrepreneurs.  At this point can I congratulate those RDAs who have already appointed ‘regional women’s enterprise co-ordinators’, and can I urge on those who havn’t got round to it.


We will be shortly hearing from Shared Intelligence about the regional state of women’s enterprise in England. And there are case studies from Yorkshire, East Midlands and the South West  RDAs to come. But I hope you will forgive me, if as a Yorkshire MP, I make brief reference to two success stories from ‘Gods own county’.


Case Study 1. Keystrokes Ltd, Knaresborough

Sue Palin and Gaynor Pearson didn’t consider themselves to be typical entrepreneurs. Their background was in local government and they had no burning desire to be entrepreneurs. But they found their jobs dull so, using their own money, they set up Keystrokes Ltd  eleven years ago to provide IT and technology training to customers throughout the UK. After a slow start, they now have major public sector contracts, including being preferred suppliers to Manchester City Council (the third largest council in the country).


Case Study 2. Briarwood Electrical Services

Claire Young started working for an electrical company at 16 and has been self-employed since 1989. She describes herself as specialising in “the little jobs that other people can’t be bothered with”. Claire undertakes electrical jobs and prides herself on providing a good service in what is traditionally a ‘man’s world’. She is also proud that she has taught herself to run a business - Claire is not one for networking. Clearly, she is a self-made female business.    


So, you see, we are talking about women making a real impact today as small entrepreneurs - this is no fantasy or theoretical proposition.


I’ll conclude by saying that I am delighted to have had the opportunity to address you today.

I hope you will enjoy the summit. I’m sure we will all learn much. And I repeat my thanks to all of you for your efforts to date in helping women to boost our regional and national economies.


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