5,000 mentors for women entrepreneurs

The Government has announced plans to fund the creation of 5,000 volunteer mentors for women entrepreneurs in an effort to increase their numbers.

The Government has announced plans to fund the creation of 5,000 volunteer mentors for women entrepreneurs in an effort to increase their numbers.

Speaking at the Royal Commonwealth Society, Theresa May, minister for equalities, also announced the creation of a Women's Business Council to advise her, the Chancellor and the Business Secretary and to "maximise women's contribution to growth".

May said there were 1.1m self-employed women in the UK, making up a third of the self-employed population. However, women in the UK were less likely than in the US to start their own business. Women thinking of starting up their own business had concerns, she said, over access to finance, work life balance issues and perhaps had different motivations and goals for starting their own business from men.

She wanted to improve the business environment for women to maximise their success, which would also impact on the economy, creating £15-21 billion a year if women's skills were fully harnessed. She said there would be an extra 150,000 start-up businesses in the UK if women started as many business as men.

The £2m volunteer mentor programme will involve experienced individuals who will offer tailored support and advice, she said.

May also outlined her support for flexible working and said two fifths of women worked part time and an estimated 700,000 of these were working part time because they couldn't find full-time jobs. One in seven had a degree. May said their top concerns were work life balance and added that the traditional 9-5 "does not make much sense any more", either for employees or businesses.

"British companies need a more flexible workforce," she said and a wider talent pool. Restricting the right to request flexible working to carers and parents suggested they were getting preferential treatment, she said, rather than that it was "the sensible way to run a business".

She said this was the reason the Government was extending flexible working to all employees. It was also introducing flexible parental leave so the choice of whether the mum or dad took parental leave was down to families, not Government. "Choice is what matters," she said. Earlier this year the Government proposed extending flexible working to all and flexible parental leave before the end of this Parliament, but it put the issue out for consultation. That consultation has just finished and a Government response is expected shortly.

May also mentioned Government policies on tackling equal pay, including its Think, Act, Report initiative for making the gender pay gap more transparent, efforts to boost the number of women on boards and extra cash for lower earning couples announced as part of the new Universal Credit.





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