Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), the community interest company which focuses on the contribution women's enterprise makes to the Scottish economy, has backed the recent cross-party call for the UK government to undertake a comprehensive equality impact assessment of its government policies.

It was announced last week that 127 Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Greens MPs had signed a letter asking Government ministers to publish details of the impact of their policies broken down by gender, race, age, disability, class and region, after analysis showed women continue to bear the brunt of austerity. Analysis by the House of Commons library and the Women’s budget Group reveals that found that 81% of cuts between 2010 and 2015 have fallen on women, rising to 86% by 2017.

Women’s Enterprise Scotland has backed the call, with research undertaken by the organisation earlier this year showing that women continue to face specific challenges when starting up or growing a business. Currently only one in every five SMEs in Scotland is majority led by women and the latest data shows the gender pay gap in enterprise is almost double that in employment, at 33%.

Anne Meikle, WES Policy Manager commented; “Data transparency is critical to understand the impact of government policies and to hold government to account on their obligations under the Public-Sector Equality Duty. This requires that a public authority must have “due regard” in its decision-making process, to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity. The Scottish Government has acted to place equality as a key pillar of economic policy, and it is therefore critical for appropriate measurement data to be provided. We are calling for gender disaggregated data to be made available on all economic development spend in Scotland, linking to targets and outcomes, as a matter of urgency.”

Meikle continued; “For example, City Region Deals offer the potential for new collaborative regional partnerships, focused on long-term strategic approaches to improving regional economies. Women’s enterprise forms a key part of local and regional economies and robust equality impact assessment (for all protected characteristics) is an essential part of the process. It is crucial that women’s enterprise is included as part of City Region deals in order to support a long-term focus on the priorities required to deliver Scotland’s Economic Strategy – including the implementation of the Women’s Enterprise Framework. Gender disaggregated data on all City Region Deal investments, targets and outcomes should be supplied to measure delivery here as a priority.”

In research conducted by WES in 2017, 80% of survey respondents stated they faced specific challenges as women business owners including achieving credibility for their business or business idea; and difficulties with balancing childcare / caring responsibilities.

46% percent of women-led businesses in the study said that they had experienced discrimination as a female business owner

The WES research also highlighted the lack of understanding of the women’s sector amongst current business support services, with 70% of respondents saying business support staff would benefit from training on the provision of gender-aware support.

Vicky Brock, WES Ambassador, Founder of data company Clear Returns and Director Emeritus of the Digital Analytics Association, commented; “The average is a horribly misleading metric and it hides the real story of what is going on for the different groups of people behind the numbers. Data is the raw material on which critical decisions get made every day. It is only when data sets include information like gender is it possible for analysts and data scientists to really understand reality for everyone, in order to tailor service, investment and policy responses accordingly."

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