A new report by Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) has highlighted the persistent challenges and barriers faced by women business owners in Scotland, despite their significant contribution to the economy.
Women-led businesses generate £8.8 billion for Scotland
According to the report, women-led businesses account for 20% of all businesses in Scotland, employing more than 230,000 people and generating £8.8 billion in turnover. However, these businesses face structural inequalities that limit their growth potential and resilience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, titled “The State of Women’s Enterprise in Scotland 2023”, is based on data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the UK Business Counts, and the Annual Population Survey. It reveals that women are less likely than men to start or run a business in Scotland, with a gender gap of 9.5 percentage points in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity.
The report also shows that women-led businesses tend to operate in sectors that are more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic, such as health, education, and personal services. Moreover, women entrepreneurs face more difficulties in accessing finance, markets, networks, and support than their male counterparts.
WES calls for urgent action to support women entrepreneurs
WES, a social enterprise that supports and advocates for women’s enterprise in Scotland, has called for urgent action from the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to address the structural inequalities faced by women business owners.
The report recommends a range of measures, such as:
- Developing a national strategy for women’s enterprise, with clear targets and indicators
- Increasing the availability and accessibility of finance for women-led businesses, including grants, loans, and equity
- Enhancing the visibility and representation of women entrepreneurs in the media, role models, and awards
- Providing tailored and gender-sensitive business support and training for women entrepreneurs, especially in rural and disadvantaged areas
- Promoting the participation and leadership of women in innovation, technology, and high-growth sectors
- Creating a more inclusive and diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem, with more women in decision-making positions and networks
Carolyn Currie, CEO of WES, said: “Women’s enterprise is not a ‘niche’ or a ‘minority’ issue. It is a mainstream economic imperative that requires urgent and sustained action from all stakeholders. We cannot afford to waste the talent and potential of half of our population, especially as we recover from the pandemic.”
She added: “We hope that this report will serve as a wake-up call and a catalyst for change, and that it will inspire more women to start and grow their own businesses in Scotland.”