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Women’s Enterprise Scotland, the community interest company which focuses on the contribution women's enterprise makes to the Scottish economy, is calling for urgent action from the Scottish Government and finance industry leaders to address the barriers faced by women starting and growing businesses.

The call, on International Women's Day, comes in the wake of the newly released Rose Report, commissioned by the UK Treasury and conducted by Royal Bank of Scotland executive Alison Rose. The report for the first time demonstrates the scale of the barriers facing women who want to start their own businesses, revealing that female entrepreneurs typically have to start businesses with only half as much capital as men. Women-only funding teams were given £32 million in investment in 2017, while male-only teams received more than £5 billion, according to official figures from the British Business Bank.

Start-ups run by women receive just 0.5 per cent of the total invested by venture capital funds - its lowest level in a decade.

WES Chair Professor Lynne Cadenhead said; “Over the past seven years, research by WES has continually shown that women cite access to finance as one of the critical barriers to business growth. Back in 2012, our research showed that access to finance was, unsurprisingly, the most frequently mentioned ‘need’, in relation to business growth and in 2016, our research showed that 48% of respondents were looking for better financial advice.[1] The recent UK VC & Female Founder Report by[2] the British Business Bank showed that 83% of UK VC deals involved founding teams with no women. For every £1 of VC investment in the UK, all female founder teams get less than 1p.

“In the United States, women-owned businesses represent 39% of the business base [3] and if we achieved the same level in Scotland, this would contribute in the region of £8billion additional revenue into the Scottish economy.

“Is a nation as innovative and entrepreneurial as Scotland seriously going to leave billions of pounds untapped and accept a status quo where just 20% of SMEs are majority owned by women? Until robust, collaborative action is taken, we will continue to be in the shameful position where women are unable to unlock their economic potential.”

Jeanette Forbes, founder of PCL Group and member of the Scottish Government’s Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board said; “Investment is critical for any business looking to scale. As a serial entrepreneur operating across several business sectors, I continue to find access to finance difficult despite the growth track record of my businesses. WES have continually highlighted this issue in their research and their think-tank events, which I have been proud to support. It is time to change the landscape. There is no substantive progress and it is time to move forward.”

Sara Roberts, founder of Healthy Nibbles said; “Healthy Nibbles is a scaling business taking advantage of new technology in the food industry. We operate in the rapidly growing vending and unstaffed food dispensing market and need capital investment to grow and meet demand. Accessing finance has been a tough journey and there is much that could be done to improve matters for women entrepreneurs.”

Lynne Cadenhead concluded; Now is the time for collaboration across the enterprise ecosystem to deliver our vision of a National Women’s Business Centre, which will offer needs based support designed by experts in gender specific techniques. Access to finance will be a critical aspect of the Centre and we are calling for Scotland’s financial services leaders to work with us to drive this forward.”

[1] Enterprise and Skills Review Survey 2016 (WES)

[2] UK VC & Female Founder Report 2019 (British Business Bank)

[3] The 2017 State of Women Owned Businesses Report (American Express)