Futures of Work

At Scottish Labour Conference we hosted “Scotland’s Future; Jobs, the economy and work”. We asked Martin Whitfield MP, Jackie Baillie MSP and Susan Harkins, Head of Business Gateway to reflect on the challenges ahead for Scotland’s economy.  In the first part of the series Susan focuses on women in business. 

A job for life has vanished and the era of self-employment/gig economy is well and truly with us, it is noteworthy that women are currently driving the increase in self-employment, however only 20% of the women are achieving business growth, meaning women are starting in business but are not growing beyond local markets. Organisations such as Women Enterprise Scotland are campaigning to ensure that Scotland is well equipped to realise women’s growth aspirations and support women. The Scottish Government have been active around women enterprise by establishing a national framework and a cross party group, the only committee with a gender equality focus in the parliament, however a lot more needs to be done to promote and acknowledge the strong economic contribution women can make to the economy through growing businesses. 

We need to look a little further in fact globally to find some positive action that is being taken to invest and support female enterprise 

At just 4.7%, the UK trails other nations in terms of the proportional population percentage of women in business. Canada is more than double that level at 13.5% and has just announced a further strategic investment in women’s entrepreneurship in their 2018 ‘genderful’ Budget.  

Some of the measure include  

The Canadian Government believes that with greater support, women-led businesses could enter, compete and win on the world stage, boosting economic growth and creating more good, well-paying jobs in Canada 

To better support the growth of women-led businesses into competitive, sustainable world-class companies, the Government has pledged $1.4 billion over three years, starting in 2018–19, in new financing for women entrepreneurs.

Commitment of $105 million over five years to the regional development agencies to support investments in women-led businesses, helping them scale and grow, as well as to support regional innovation ecosystems, including incubators and accelerators, and other third-party programs supporting mentorship, networking and skills development.

The Canadian Government recognised that Women entrepreneurs need access to financing to enable them to take advantage of opportunities in the global marketplace. To provide financing and insurance solutions for women-owned and women-led businesses that are exporting or looking to begin exporting, the Canadian Government will make available $250 million over three years, starting in 2018–19 fantastic action that we should also consider.

One thought provoking statistic from Canada: If we took similar action to Canada then we could start to unlock the full economic potential of women. In Scotland women-owned businesses currently contribute £5bn GVA to the Scottish economy, but if women started up in business at the same rate as men an additional £7.6bn GVA would be contributed – £12.6bn in total.