Women in business still facing barriers

BUSINESS women are making a positive impact on the East of England economy, but still face barriers which stifle their ability to grow and succeed, a conference in Newmarket heard yesterday.

BUSINESS women are making a positive impact on the East of England economy, but still face barriers which stifle their ability to grow and succeed, a conference in Newmarket heard yesterday.

An audience of opinion formers, banks and government organisations attended the East of England Development Agency's Women's Enterprise day - an event specifically designed to help them understand the role they can play in helping women succeed in business.

Business women from across the region also attended to showcase their work and explain what has worked - or failed - for them in the past.

Speakers included Erika Watson, executive director of Prowess, a network of organisations and individuals which supports the growth of women's business ownership, and Michelle Mone - creator of the successful Ultimo brand of lingerie.

Michelle said: “It is difficult enough to set up and run a successful business without the additional barriers which women have to face.

“We need to challenge women and business support organisations to tailor their plans and support to ensure women are in a stronger position to make a significant impact on the UKs economy. That being said, we have the talent so it is really up to us to use it to fulfil our potential.”

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Yesterday's event also included workshops on how to overcome some of the specific barriers faced by women in business and the launch of a series of initiatives to tailor support for business women, including a Women's Enterprise Strategy for the East of England and a Women's Enterprise Directory providing a guide to the support available.

David Marlow, chief executive of EEDA, said: “As recent media coverage on the gender gap in wages has highlighted, there is a significant disparity between men and women in business which is the very opposite of the success which is achieved in schools and universities.

“Clearly something is going wrong, and when you consider that 99% of businesses in the region are classed as small we have the ideal environment to help women entrepreneurs.

“Having identified the problems, it is now our role - in conjunction with our partners - to deal with them,” he added.

“We must give women the right support at the right time, ensuring issues such as access to education and finance are dealt with while giving them confidence to find ways of succeeding in areas which are still dominated by men.”