Price To Pay For Untapped Entrepreneurial Potential

A report by the Women’s Business Council has been released entitled ‘Maximising Women’s Contribution to Future Economic Growth’. But is this possible?

There are more than 2.4 million women across the UK who are not in work but want to work and more than 1.3 million women who want to increase the number of hours they work.

By unblocking this mismatch and optimising the potential for the UK’s economic growth I believe we can further increase the gross domestic profit thus maximising women’s contribution to future economic growth. So yes, it certainly is possible.

A key finding of the report is that there is enormous potential in women’s untapped entrepreneurialism and a strong case for providing more support for women who want to set up their own businesses.

Enterprise is vital for economic growth, national competitiveness and innovation.

If women were setting up and running new businesses at the same rate as men, we could have an extra one million female entrepreneurs.

They are now only half as likely to do this and they and the economy pay the price.

Proud to have been a focus of one of the case studies in the report, we at Women in Business NI are committed to creating a new economy with women as the driving force.

We recently hosted our fifth annual conference in Belfast which was attended by more than 300 female business leaders, entrepreneurs, senior managers and small business owners.

The conference was opened by secretary of state Theresa Villiers and we were fortunate to have Susan Ann Davis, chairwoman of Vital Voices, across from Washington to give the keynote address.

Hot on her heels was Lara Morgan, who sold her business Pacific Direct, which manufactured and sold brand licensed toiletries and amenities to hotels, for £20 million aged just 40.

She was followed to the speaker’s platform by Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green & Black’s chocolate – a business worth £100 million.

Ms Fairley is also the author of the Beauty Bible book series and her interests now include a bakery and wellbeing boutique hotel.

Dr Maureen Gaffney, clinical psychologist, author and columnist, brought the conference to a close.

Fired-up delegates made real business connections with like-minded businesswomen and left the conference with ideas and aspirations for improving not just their businesses but themselves.

To meet the recommendations in the Women’s Business Council report, we need a road map for clear and achievable gains. We are at a turning point in women’s economic development as the economic situation provides an opportunity for gaining overdue recognition of the vital contribution of women to national prosperity.

That is why we have taken the step of hosting our first international businesswomen’s conference in the north in May next year.

We have already received support from First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and enterprise minister Arlene Foster.

The conference aims to explore how we can create a new economy.

The core theme of the conference will highlight the need for more integrity and diversity in business and the huge reach and impact that business has on all levels of society. It will also emphasise the importance of values in business while providing the prospect of developing a global strategy for business-women and men to impact on economic growth.

We are committed to building on the calibre of speakers that we attracted at this year’s conference.

Hillary Clinton has been approached to provide the keynote address.

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