By Amy Bainton, Head of Communications, FSB Wales.
We are fast approaching a really significant moment in Wales for a number of reasons.
First of all, Wales continues to move out of Alert Level 4 and reopen significant parts of the economy. This has big ramifications for the female entrepreneurs that have been either unable to trade or have had significant restrictions on their ability to do so since before Christmas. Many women will be returning to work and adapting – once again – to the new circumstances created by the evolving nature of Coronavirus and the steps Welsh Government requires businesses to take as a result. How successfully we get these businesses back on track will have long-term implications for Wales’ economy and our communities.
Secondly, the Senedd elections are now just around the corner, with all of Wales’ political parties vying to form the next Welsh Government. Regardless of who forms it, a new Welsh Government brings with it a new set of priorities and new thinking on how we rebuild Wales’ economy and ensure that it is sustainable and fit for the future.
The discussion about how women are supported to play a bigger role in Wales’ economy – whether that be by starting a business, growing an existing one and much more – has been something that has preoccupied the partners of the Its About Time…. campaign for some time. In 2019, Natwest, FSB Wales, the University of South Wales and Darwin Gray LLP joined together to start a programme of events for female entrepreneurs to help them build networks and exploit new opportunities, as well as harnessing the energy and ideas of those women to tackle some of the persistent problems facing women in business.
Around that time, the Rose Review found that that female-led businesses were underrepresented in high value sectors, and that £250 billion could be added to the economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate in the UK as men. Never has it been more important that we ensure that everyone is given the opportunities that they need to play a role in growing our economy than now, as we try to rebuild and recover from the pandemic.
That’s why this consortium, who all work with women in business and entrepreneurship in Wales, have called on all political parties to outline how they will take steps to support women in business going forwards, to ensure that they can exploit opportunities to start and grow a business.
Previous FSB research Going Solo: Understanding Entrepreneurship in Wales found that in every constituency in Wales there were at least two self-employed men for every self-employed woman, rising to 3:1 in some areas.
This shows that we are not exploiting all the opportunities for growing entrepreneurship in Wales if some groups of people experience barriers that are more insurmountable than others.
2019 saw the launch of Supporting Entrepreneurial Women in Wales: An Approach for Wales. This featured 10 recommendations to help tackle inequality and ensure that the needs of entrepreneurial women in Wales are being fully met and was produced by the Welsh Government’s Supporting Entrepreneurial Women panel. This offers some thoughts on how to begin the job of supporting female entrepreneurs as we emerge from the pandemic.
The election is an opportunity to reset many areas of our economy and ensure that our recovery from Coronavirus is one that is fairer, greener and more successful. Its also an opportunity to ensure that female entrepreneurs are really given the support that they need to play a much bigger role in our economy – this will create more jobs, more locally-rooted investment and be good for our communities.
Ensuring that more women are encouraged and supported to pursue entrepreneurship is something that should be a concern for all of us, and I hope to see the next Welsh Government pursuing this as a priority in the next Senedd term.