Women's Enterprise Scotland (WES), the not-for-profit community interest company which works to improve the commercial culture for women-led business ownership, today announces the launch of its Business Advisor Gender Balance (BAGB) Training and Certification Programme.

The launch coincides with International Women’s Day (March 8th) and follows WES research into female entrepreneurship. 78% of respondents in the research said business advice services should be more aware of the differences in support needs between men and women, with almost 80% stating that staff would benefit from training on the provision of gender-appropriate support. Those who had not accessed gender specific business support pointed to the lack of local provision, with comments including, “Women entrepreneurs scale up their businesses differently - public sector services, support and products need to understand this.”

The Business Advisor Gender Balance (BAGB) programme developed by Women’s Enterprise Scotland is designed to help business advisors assess the gender-specific nature of the support they provide. It offers insight into gender-appropriate techniques and best practice to help staff develop effective plans, providing a route map for analysis and action planning.

Commenting on the launch, Carolyn Currie, Chief Operating Officer, at Women’s Enterprise Scotland said, “Women are clear about their business aspirations for growth and the value they place on women specific services. In our recent research, 90% of women led businesses said they aspire to grow in the next three years, with 27% predicting growth of over 50% and 32% saying their ambition is to grow rapidly.”

“It is crucial that we unlock the economic opportunity represented by women in business and business advisors have a pivotal role to play in this. We know that women entrepreneurs place a high value on gender specific business support and feel that the current business support networks need to work far harder in this area to deliver the support needed.”

She continued; “Research shows that if more women started up in business at the same rate as men, an additional £7.6bn could be added to the Scottish economy. This is almost equal to the estimated impact which Brexit may have on the Scottish economy and we simply cannot afford to leave that potential untapped.”

Business Gateway Fife and Business Gateway Edinburgh will be the first organisations to undertake the Business Advisor Gender Balance (BAGB) programme, with training starting at the end of March.

Susan Harkins, Principal Officer for Business Gateway Edinburgh said; “At Business Gateway Edinburgh, we run a women specific start up programme and a women's network. Both initiatives receive excellent feedback from participants and are well attended. We welcome this opportunity to develop staff insight on best practice in business support delivery for women led businesses. We look forward to continuing to support the growing number of women led businesses and the economic opportunity which they represent to the Scottish economy.”

Pamela Stevenson, Fife Council Economic Development Lead Officer said; “This innovative training programme from Women’s Enterprise Scotland is a great opportunity for business advisers to be more aware of gender sensitivities, in particular when considering the needs of female entrepreneurs and growth opportunities of women in business.”

Business support staff with an action plan which meets the Gender Equality Standards can apply to be certified and display the equality quality mark logo, marking them out as providers of gender-appropriate business support. Certification lasts for 12 months and throughout that time, advisors will have access to the BAGB digital resource centre, allowing them to keep up to date and maintain the gender equality standard via continuing professional development.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has been a key commercial partner to Women’s Enterprise Scotland since 2011. Yvonne Greeves, National Head of Women in Business, said; "At the Royal Bank of Scotland, we focus on supporting all our customers to realise their business aspirations and achieve the best results. We are committed to increasing the numbers of our Women in Business specialists across the UK and aim to be the bank which women will come to because we will support them to achieve their business goals. Training is vital to ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of all our customers and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with WES as we progress those commitments."

Calls have been made for a more effective ‘gender sensitive’ approach to policy making and service delivery, with the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) stating, “there is a need to mainstream a gender sensitive approach in all entrepreneurship and growth policies, in order to consider, include and reflect the specific characteristics, needs and challenges of female entrepreneurs (both existing and would-be) and women’s businesses”.

The FSB’s recent research, Women in Enterprise: the Untapped Potential, found that over one third (34%) of FSB women business owners had experienced discrimination as a business woman in the past. Instances in which clients, suppliers and external contractors either mistook their role in the business or assumed that a male partner or employee was the business owner were commonplace.

Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) has created BAGB to pioneer the transition to a more gender-aware business support environment, providing business support staff with the knowledge and critical tools to deliver a service which meets the needs of both men and women.

Carolyn Currie concluded; “Our intention with the BAGB training and certification programme is to help business advisors in delivering gender-appropriate support, meeting and not missing end-user needs. It also provides a framework to manage gender based operational risk - including discrimination and unconscious bias – and optimises business resources to leverage return on investment.”

For further information on the Women’s Enterprise Scotland Business Advisor Gender Balance programme, visit : https://www.wescotland.co.uk/training

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