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What are the barriers facing women in business? Only one in three UK entrepreneurs are female, which means a gender gap equivalent to 1.1m missing businesses. To discuss this statistic and many more, NatWest Cymru invited a group of business leaders in Wales to a round table event which looked at the barriers facing women in business.

ON International Women's Day, a UK government review was released identifying the barriers faced by women in business.

The publication is called the Rose Review and it was led by Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest Commercial and Private Banking.

The review featured some startling statistics, from the fact that only one in three UK entrepreneurs are female to male entrepreneurs are likely to secure more capital to start their business and are five times more likely to scale up to PS1m turnover compared to female SMEs.

To find out why the gender gap in business still exists, NatWest held interviews with entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors and support bodies from across the UK.

The feedback from the interviews revealed what barriers existed and the Rose Review includes recommendations to remove them.

For example, the Rose Review suggests 'increasing funding for women who want to start a business and providing greater family care support so they can reach their goals.' A few weeks after the review was released, the barriers and recommendations were presented to a group of business leaders in Wales and this was discussed over dinner at the NatWest Accelerator Hub in Cardiff.

So, what happens when 12 people sit around a table and debate gender, money and role models in Wales? "Gender equality isn't just 'a nice to have', it's an economic imperative," said Helen Antoniazzi, strategic lead of policy and communications at Chwarae Teg.

"Chwarae Teg has recently completed some research into the value of gender equality to the Welsh economy and it could add PS14bn.

The Welsh Government budget is PS15bn so we could effectively double the Welsh budget."

With money on everyone's mind, this opened up the discussion for how funding is a barrier for women in business.

Cheryl Gourlay, strategic lead for Women in Business Wales and the South West at NatWest, confirmed the Rose Review highlighted that access to funding and lending and borrowing money was a barrier, with females reluctant to ask for help.

"Funding is a barrier, but I think it's more about the attitude that men and women have towards debt.

"Is it because women are more concerned about putting their families at risk? I think more work needs to be done around why men and women have different attitudes towards finance," said Katy Chamberlain, chief executive of Business in Focus.

"I think women ask for help in different ways and that needs to be recognised," added Caroline Thompson, CEO at BeTheSpark.

"I agree, inspireMe has been going for 10 years but only in the past two months I have been able to change my mindset and be open to funding.

"As a result, I held my business back and for a good few years I felt like I was wearing the wrong size dress for my business. I felt out of place," said Andrea Callanan, owner of INSPIREME.

This struggle with identity was something that weaved throughout the conversation, as everyone around the table delved into the multiple roles women and men have to juggle. Running a business is only part of the story.

"People automatically assume it's a woman's responsibility to look after families, but it's all our responsibility," commented Mia Rees, policy and public affairs manager (Wales) at The Prince's Trust. "At The Prince's Trust we have a lot of women approach us and one of the reasons they want to set up their own business is because of flexibility."

"For me, I am only able to do what I do because my husband has a flexible job," added Jackie Van Baren, owner of JVB Connect.

"He took six months off when my daughter was born, but he was the first man in the company to be given time off.

"The conversation for him was, 'Should I take it? Can I take it? What would I look like as a man?' But I am so proud that he stood up and made that decision."

The consensus was that for women to break down the barriers in business, it is essential that attitudes need to change around male and female stereotypes.

It also became clear that there are people in Wales setting a positive example, but these stories are not being told.

"It is definitely all about collaborating and coming together," said Gourlay. "Networking is key and having access to sponsors and mentors, we also need the right male allies too."

"Sponsors are so important but sometimes overlooked. I think it is about people understanding what that sponsor can do for you and they might even have a sponsor, but won't necessarily recognise they are playing this role," commented Thompson.

This type of support was championed at the meeting, as role models can make a positive impact in any career journey, whether that is starting a business or working in a corporate environment.

"The conversation moved into the meaning of the word 'entrepreneur' and that maybe part of the problem was that it can be misconstrued.

Although there is an assumed link between entrepreneurship and start-up, this doesn't have to be the case. Thompson explained that entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, but entrepreneurial skills are desirable in every business.

"Are we teaching people to think creatively as well as being entrepreneurial and having good business skills?" asked Sara Pepper, director of creative economy at Cardiff University.

"We should always talk about diversity and gender, but also digital. Also, does entrepreneurship translate differently in different cultures?" "I think people are getting more engaged with digital," said Rees. "The new curriculum will have numeracy, literacy and digital, so it shows that our educationalists are listening and there are moves in Wales to catch up."

With schools preparing the business minds of the future, the group also looked at the importance of emotional support and showing women across Wales they always have a choice with their future careers.

"You can't have it all, but you can have what you choose.

"We have to teach young women and men that they always have a choice.

"Maybe some of the women interviewed for the Rose Review didn't feel they had a choice?" said Callanan.

As the meeting was about to come to its conclusion, Gemma Collins, business growth enabler at NatWest Cymru, asked the group to come up with three action points to make a difference in the business community.

The action points included creating more role models, educating women about choice and introducing varied storytelling.

The last point was raised throughout the conversation as everyone was keen to tell more stories about women in business, at every stage of the career journey.

However, the challenge would be engaging women in different communities across Wales and making sure their story was told.

The group suggested the media could take more responsibility for this, as it is able to play a part in breaking down the barriers women face in business. Challenge accepted.

"This is just the start of the conversation," concluded Gourlay.

"It doesn't end here, and this is the start for all of us to help and support women who want to progress their careers."

ATTENDING THE ROUND TABLE EVENT WERE: | Helen Antoniazzi, strategic lead of policy and communications at Chwarae Teg | Andrea Callanan, owner of INSPIREME | Katy Chamberlain, chief executive of Business in Focus | Gemma Collins, business growth enabler at NatWest Cymru | Noel Davies, PR manager for Wales and South West at NatWest Cymru | Cheryl Gourlay, strategic lead for Women in Business Wales and the South West at NatWest | Dan McGinn, public affairs manager at NatWest Cymru | Sara Pepper, director of creative economy at Cardiff University | Mia Rees, policy and public affairs manager (Wales) at The Prince's Trust | Caroline Thompson, CEO at BETHESPARK | Jackie Van Baren, owner of JVB Connect | Lucinda Reid, commercial editor at Media Wales

CAPTION(S):

Helen Antoniazzi, Chwarae Teg

Andrea Callanan, Inspire Me

Katy Chamberlain, Business in Focus

<B Noel Davies, NatWest Cymru

Gemma Collins, Nat West

Jackie van Baren, JVB Connect

Mia Rees, Prince's Trust Cymru

<B Sara Pepper, Creative Cardiff

<| Caroline Thompson, BETHESPARK

<B Lucinda Reid, Media Wales

<B Cheryl Gourlay, NatWest Cymru

<B Cheryl Gourlay, NatWest Cymru

<B Dan McGlinn, NatWest Cymru
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 27, 2019
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