County council responds with vigour to Growing Women, Growing Lancashire report

By Changing Roles Ltd

11 Jul 2022

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In recent years, there has been some much-needed research into the untapped potential of Women in Enterprise, reports commissioned both by government and the private sector:  The 2019 Alison Rose Review states that ‘if women started and grew businesses at the same rate as men, we would release 250bn of GVA into the British economy’. However, this is unlikely to happen unless government create a joined up strategy which delivers the recommendations therein.

In the past 10 years there has been no such research at county level and so I’m very pleased to advise that Lancashire County Council has not only shown much interest in the untapped potential of women, but has commissioned a report and responded to the findings.

In January this year, the council provided funding from their Resilience fund, for myself (MD of Role) and Jane Binnion, owner of The Growing Club CiC, Lancaster, to map the numbers of women in enterprise and leadership across the County and to discover what was available in terms of female specific support and what more women wanted.

During February and March, we researched what was hard to find.  Since 2010, the amount of data collated by gender at such a granular level, is almost non-existent, but Jane and I are persistent creatures and by cross-referencing many reports and with assistance from the Local Enterprise partnership, we discovered that approximately 1 in 4 businesses in the County are owned by a woman and 1 in 5 Directors are female.  (We hope these figures shock you as much as they should!) There are no county-level figures for women in leadership, although we do know that nationally, 67 per cent of junior leaders are female, but only 38 per cent of senior leaders are.

Lancashire is a great place to build businesses and careers, so why are the numbers of women achieving this so low?  We interviewed and surveyed many local women and business support providers, and read pages and pages of UK research to discover the answers.

The resultant report, Growing women, Growing Lancashire has been shared with support providers across the County and will be made available to the public by the end of July.

The recommendations within the report are:

1.     A Women in Enterprise steering group to work alongside the LEP and create a long-term strategy to grow the number of women in business and leadership in the County.

2.     Funded business support for ‘the missing middle’, which we identified as the gap between start-up support and growth programmes, which often have a criteria of 10+ employees. (Most women’s businesses have no more than 6 employees).

3.     A dedicated web page on the Boost Lancashire hub, detailing women-specific support/events and showcasing role models.

4.     A county-wide industry-specific female mentoring service

5.     An increase in awareness of the different issues women face when growing businesses and careers, with support organisations ensuring that their programmes/events reflect women’s needs.

6.     A joined-up approach to women’s business and career development across education, businesses, the media and local government, with parties working together to create an environment where everyone achieves their goals.

We are pleased to report that Lancashire County Council and specifically, Amin Vepari and Andrew Leeming rolled up their sleeves and ensured that our recommendations have been quickly acted upon.  We have progress already on five out of the six. 

We have a Women’s Enterprise Steering group with 14 members, a six-month amazing business growth programme, the Two/Zero Women Scaling Up programme. A dedicated web page about to go live on the Boost Lancashire website, a sharing of the report with all Boost and Boost and Co partners and a push from the council and the LEP for Lancashire to come together to release the whole of the county’s potential.

The ONS states that £105bn of GVA is produced by female-owned businesses in the UK, that’s 13.3 per cent of the total.  At a time when this country needs to grow its economy and drive social equality like never before, what better way to do this than to support women to start, grow and lead businesses in every way we can?

If you're a woman (or you identify as a woman) in business or leadership in Lancashire, please look out for the Boost Women in Enterprise and Leadership web page and ask for the support you need.  If you're a man with female employees, a female partner, a daughter, a work colleague, a friend, who is a woman, please look out for the report Growing Women, Growing Lancashire.  Please digest it and influence whoever and wherever you can, to ensure that our County is a leader in equality, opportunity and creativity.

Thank you.

Wendy BowersChanging Roles

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