Belfast Telegraph

How female go-getters can boost economy by £250bn

Businesswomen are being encouraged to secure capital by Ulster Bank
Businesswomen are being encouraged to secure capital by Ulster Bank

By Lynsey Cunningham, director of entrepreneurship, Ulster Bank

One of the key findings from the Alison Rose Review of Entrepreneurship stated that boosting female entrepreneurship could boost the UK economy by as much as £250bn.

Commissioned by the government and issued earlier this year, the purpose of the report was to examine the barriers facing women in business and what exactly should be done to overcome them.

Given the size of the opportunity, the stakes are undoubtedly high. Put simply, no government can afford to ignore the issue of gender imbalance in business any longer, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also with the economic growth opportunity that could be generated from tapping female talent.

The Rose Review identified a series of problems that still exist for female entrepreneurs, even in 2019. Helpfully, there are clear solutions to many of these issues and these are being addressed right across our network of 12 Accelerator Hubs based across the UK.

I'm proud to be able to say that within Ulster Bank's Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme last year, 53% of the intake were female - 7% higher than the UK average. That said, this doesn't allow us to rest on our laurels and we work to sustain or even grow this figure.

A significant factor in fuelling the imbalance is that fewer women raise finance than their male counterparts in order to grow their businesses and when they do, often females will ask for a smaller amount than men. There are various theories as to why this remains the case however they can all come under the overarching umbrella of confidence or more accurately, a lack of it.

Supporting women to overcome their 'inner imposter' and equipping them to grow in confidence remains an important focus within the bank's Accelerator programme. We are mindful of bringing diversity to our panels, bringing in attainable role models as speakers and supporting a female founders club.

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The value peer support can bring to women, or indeed anyone, in business should not be underestimated. Having the encouragement of other like-minded women and creating a space where female entrepreneurs feel confident to ask questions and share insight is an enormous asset. We are proud to work with so many highly experienced and inspiring entrepreneurs and members of the business community who provide expert mentorship to our entrepreneurs and role model what can be achieved.

The Rose Review also revealed that fewer than 6% of women run their own business and that women are still half as likely as men to start a business. Creating a strong network and encouraging entrepreneurs to work collaboratively has proven to be successful and we hope that by continuing these efforts, these statistics will be a thing of the past.

Unsurprisingly, crowd funding has become increasingly popular with female entrepreneurs who can benefit from collaborative approach to test their ideas and get feedback at an early stage. That's why Ulster Bank is encouraging female entrepreneurs to secure capital for their business in this way through our 'Back Her Business' initiative. In some cases, we will even match the total amount raised up to £5,000, in order to help women start and scale their business. Already, we've had one local business meet her crowd funding target and I know this will enable Dr Ava Brown take the Chakai range of skin and haircare to the next level.

Advancing female entrepreneurship remains a key priority for Ulster Bank we are working hard to better understand the challenges and motivations for female entrepreneurs. 'Back Her Business' allows us to provide a tailor-made support programme to ensure that this previously untapped but hugely promising audience is given the best chance possible to start, scale and succeed.

Belfast Telegraph