Today we mark International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual event which highlights key issues including gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women. This year’s IWD sits under the theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,’ focusing on how to further empower women through technological change and education.
This theme also sits at the heart of the recently published Pathways: A New Approach for Women in Entrepreneurship report, co-written by successful entrepreneur Ana Stewart and Scotland’s Chief Entrepreneur, Mark Logan. It was a privilege for me to contribute to this bold report that challenges the status quo in attracting more women into the world of entrepreneurship and supporting them to scale their businesses on a global level.
The Pathways Report sets out key findings and recommendations aimed at addressing current inequities behind the significant underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs. At present, just one in five businesses in Scotland are led by women. Of even greater concern is that just two percent of institutional investment currently goes into female-led companies. This level of under-participation and lack of financial accessibility is not only unacceptable but it is also economically damaging.
The report’s recommendations on tackling these chronic problems include a sensible, decentralised approach in bringing start-up incubation, training and support to remote communities and to those female groups in society which are currently most underrepresented.
The Scottish Government must embrace all these recommendations, both the quicker fix policy solutions and the deeper, underlying causes. This includes a stronger focus on female entrepreneurship within the education system and across other areas of society; helping tackle the unconscious bias which inhibits many women from pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities and adversely impacts on growth opportunities for the minority who do set up their own companies.
While encouraging more women into entrepreneurship it’s also critical that we greatly increase support along the journey to growth, scale and investment where the biggest drop-off of female founders currently occurs. Investing Women Angels has significantly grown the numbers of women investors in Scotland leading to a six-fold increase in the percentage of angel investments going into female-led companies. We are therefore excited to see the recommended Journey Fund which will help underpin and accelerate more investment in female founders.
To ensure far more female-led companies scale internationally, we must also build on the work of groups like AccelerateHER, giving female founders access to global investment and market building connections through international trade missions and overseas mentors. The work of CodeBase is also vital inattracting more women entrepreneurs into tech and helping them to scale. These activities are key constituents in delivering economic growth for Scotland.
Through the support of the Scottish Government and many other organisations, we must embrace the recommendations set out in the Pathways Report and address the core issues that are still preventing more female-led businesses from flourishing. Pursuing this course of action will not only help create a fairer society, it will also deliver an economic uplift across Scotland to the benefit of everyone in our society.
Jackie Waring is the founder of Investing Women Angels and Chair of sister company AccelerateHER