Female business leaders from Liverpool and Manchester tell Chancellor Rishi Sunak to give women a ‘seat at the table’ when formulating enterprise policy. Tony McDonough reports
Two of the North West leading female business leaders are calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to give women’s enterprise a “voice and a seat at the policy table”.
Julia Rouse, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of Liverpool-based social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, are co-chairs of the Women’s Enterprise Policy Group (WEPG).
It represents leading experts from business support and academia across the UK, is now urging the Chancellor to give women a voice and a role in shaping policy responses to these urgent and challenging problems.
Ms O’Carroll has been involved in research projects into the potential impact female entrepreneurs could have on the economy. One major study last year claimed they could boost UK plc by up to £250bn a year.
The Chancellor has laid out a suite of policies to support small businesses which have so far “fallen through the cracks” in coronavirus support schemes, promising they “have not been forgotten”. But now the WEPG is calling for more urgent action to support women’s enterprise.
It claims there are still a host of female entrepreneurs and women-led businesses who have been overlooked and forgotten in these schemes and that there is an urgent need to put gender-aware policies in place.
WEPG is highlighting two areas of concern. The first states that policy initiatives have failed many women due to excluding the self-employed from support schemes, excluding home-based businesses from grant schemes, ignoring evidence that women are reluctant to borrow and failing to compensate business directors for their dividend income.
Secondly, it states that the social distancing and gaps in school and nursery provision and other issues with childcare over the next few months will cause a crisis for many women.
Prof Rouse said: “There is an urgent need for women’s enterprise to be at the policy table. Developing gender responsive policy for women requires our expertise. We can help analyse how COVID-19 is impacting women-led businesses, monitor policy impact and help shape and implement policies that work for women.
“The peak of the crisis for women-led businesses may come just before Christmas as the Self-employment Income Support Scheme and the Job Retention Scheme close. We are haunted by an image of a devastating pre-Christmas period for households and families across the UK.
“An economic disaster could ravage local communities and could be offset if women are given more of a voice. We urge the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to bring The WEPG to the policy-making table.”