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Women in Business

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 10th April 2014.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 9:30 am, 10th April 2014

What recent steps he is taking to support women in business and encourage more women to enter business.

Photo of Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

The Government offer a wide range of support to new businesses, for example through the growth accelerator, the new enterprise allowance and mentoring. The latest figures show that over 37% of start-up loans have gone to female entrepreneurs and one in five FTSE 100 board members are now women. We will continue to work closely with the Women’s Business Council and others to help ensure that more women see starting and growing their own business as a real option.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

I thank the Minister for that answer. Over the past couple of years, we have seen one of the fastest rates of new business creation. Does she agree that we need to encourage more female entrepreneurs such as Tracy Wilson and Emma Brown in my constituency who have launched their new child product business, Dribble Stop Tops? What support are the Government giving to help to sustain such businesses in the short and long term?

Photo of Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

As the hon. Gentleman highlights, record numbers of women are setting up their own businesses. Female self-employment is growing at four times the rate of male self-employment. More than 6,000 female mentors are available to support entrepreneurs, such as his constituents, who want to set up and grow their own business. The Government have a wealth of information and advice available on gov.uk and the great business website to support people in the situation that he highlights.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The Minister mentioned in passing the latest figures on women in boardrooms. In responding to those figures, the former Minister for Women, Maria Miller, said that we need to be honest that the culture in Britain is not neutral to women and is still “white, male and heterosexual.” Does the Minister agree? If so, what message does she believe the reshuffle sends about changing the situation?

Photo of Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

We would probably all agree that the gender and ethnic balance in boardrooms are not as we would like to see them. However, significant progress is being made. At the start of this Parliament, about 12% of FTSE 100 board members were women. The figure is now more than 20% and we are on target to reach a quarter of board members being women by the election. The Government are taking the matter seriously and working hard to change the culture throughout companies by introducing measures such as flexible working and shared parental leave, which send out the message that the Government think this issue is extremely important. We are working with employers to change the culture in businesses from top to bottom.