Women and Enterprise – Policy Position

The below content sets out the Scottish Government’s position on the topic of women and enterprise, and also includes a ‘state of the nation’ prepared by the government’s analytical department.

Scottish Government Policy Position

Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Support Policy Team

Women in Enterprise (WiE) – Policy Approach and Impact


The Scottish Government believes that supporting more women to set up and succeed in business is not only a moral imperative; it is an economic one. Work led by Professor Sara Carter from the Hunter Centre (Strathclyde) indicates that if women’s participation rates matched men’s there would be the potential of c.35,000 more direct jobs in the Scottish economy. It could also boost the economy by as much as 5% GDP, a difference of £7.6 billion GVA

The Action Framework

Women in Enterprise Action Framework was launched on 04 March 2014 and has received strong buy-in from partners across the public, private and third sectors. The first of its kind in Europe, it focuses on the three predominate issues that women entrepreneurs face:

  • Access to Money, women have lower levels of overall capitalisation, 1/3 of the starting capital used by men, lower ratios of debt finance and scarce VC and business angel investment opportunity. Women have to rely more on personal savings and informal sources of finance.
  • Access to Markets, women’s business are generally concentrated in highly gendered sectors. This leads to a cultural depreciation of women’s businesses, funnels into low-value sectors and closes opportunity in certain markets.
  • Access to Management, women have less managerial experience than male counterparts and engage in sectors where advanced managerial skills and competencies are not required.The Action Framework looks to tackle these issues, ‘join-up’ and increase support to women-led businesses and close the gender gap. It includes ensuring support via mentoring and networking, access to role models, access to finance, on-going measurement and ensuring gender-aware support is encouraged across enterprise support organisations. Refresh of the Framework  was published on 31 August 2017, identifying priority areas of action and how best these actions can be collaboratively supported.

The Action Group

An Action Group, chaired by the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, has been established to support the delivery of the Framework. The intention is that the group will act as a sounding board, provide constructive challenge to the development of the Framework. The group will meet three times per year, the first of which took place on Tuesday 28 November 2017, the second on 25 April 2018. The group specifically aims to:‘Realise untapped economic potential by tackling the gender gap across startups and growth companies, with action to deliver a sustainable model that collaboratively develops and monitors future gender-aware and gender-specific policies and interventions’.Besides Scottish Government, organisations represented on the board are: Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway, Royal Bank of Scotland, Virgin Start-up, the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, Women’s Enterprise Scotland, Business Women Scotland, Investing Women, the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs, the Association of Scottish Business Women, Entrepreneurial Scotland and Entrepreneurial Spark.


For 2018/19, over a quarter of a million pounds has been invested in the following four projects:

– Investing Women (IW). In their first two-and-a-half years’ of activity, IW has backed 10 companies with £900K invested from their women angel members, and seen a total value of investments of over £10M. Their work is invaluable in enabling women-led businesses to access high levels of finance. They encourage more women to become business angels, creating a virtuous cycle of investment and growth.
– Business Women Scotland’s (BWS) #BWSLiveEvents programme informs women about the support landscape for female entrepreneurs and encourages networking and confidence to growth. Scottish Government support will allow for five full scale events across the whole of Scotland; an additional two half-day leadership events across Scotland; and increased attendance by female business owners at the joint Women’s Enterprise Scotland/Business Women Scotland awards ceremony. The BWS work is a key enabler in ensuring that broader WiE activity reaches the correct audience.
– The Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) Ambassadors Programme provides a public platform for case studies, insight and good practice examples of women already on the enterprise journey. At the start of 2017 there were 14 WES Ambassadors and now there are 39, an increase of almost 200%.
– The Association of Scottish Businesswomen’s (ASB) Annual Conference enables entrepreneurs and businesswomen from across Scotland to network, hear from inspirational speakers, and attend workshops to increase their business skills. Scottish Government support will enable more affordable tickets for delegates at the 2018 Conference, thus increasing participation, role-modelling and networking opportunities, particularly for those in more rural areas.

Evidence of Impact

There is evidence – from the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship – that the policy approach is working, and that women’s enterprise rates are accelerating. In particular:

  • The proportion of women who are actively starting a business has risen significantly and early-stage entrepreneurial activity (those attempting or who have started a business in the last 3 years) has now caught up with the UK.
  • The gender gap for people starting businesses has also reduced which goes against the UK trend where the enterprise gap has increased. In Scotland, the enterprise gender gap is now on a par with other leading entrepreneurial nations like the US and Canada.
  • Since the recession, early-stage entrepreneurial activity in young women has trebled.

However, there are also some negatives, which the Action Group is focusing on:

    • Scotland’s high-expectation entrepreneurship is lower than other leading countries.
    • Only 0.44% of the UK’s scale-ups (enterprise with 10+ employees and average annual growth of 20% over a 3-year period) are women-led. Only 9 women-led scale-ups exist in Scotland.

Further reading: Scottish Government Analytical Services – state of the nation.