Women-led businesses across the north of the UK are pushing the region's economy to highs never seen before, contributing to the rise of cities like Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.
Women in regions across the north of England are not letting gender stereotypes hold them back. More than ever before, female entrepreneurs and women-led businesses are pushing the north’s economy to new heights, contributing to the rise of cities like Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.
In 2015 alone, female-led businesses in the UK generated £3.51 billion for the country’s economy and created an additional 77,000 jobs, according to the latest research from NatWest. When we look at the north specifically, female entrepreneurs in Manchester contributed £124 million to the economy, setting up 5,200 businesses over 12 months. Across the north-west, female start-ups contributed £325 million.
When it comes to Leeds, women-led businesses contributed £102 million to the economy, with 3,700 businesses set up in 2015. The study also revealed that in Yorkshire, female entrepreneurs generated £230 million. Natwest’s research mirrors data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which highlighted that the number of businesses started by women has increased significantly over the last decade, from 58,000 in 2006 to 126,000 in 2015.
Such research follows the release of PwC’s annual ‘Women in Work’ index, which found if UK businesses took action to close the gender pay gap, female earnings could soar by as much as £85 billion.
Andrea Kelly, director of commercial banking at NatWest, commented: “We know entrepreneurs are vital to the economy, and it’s fantastic to see just how much women contribute in Manchester and across the UK, but it’s clear we need to do more to power this growth in the same way our global counterparts do."
Powerful northern women
Over the past couple of years, the rise of groups that support gender diversity among organisations has allowed women to thrive within the world of business. Northern Power Women, for example, has been transforming the culture of business by recognising, celebrating and showcasing role models. The group makes sure that women are given a voice in the north’s economic rejuvenation, while providing role models to the next generation of female entrepreneurs. Each year, coinciding with International Women’s Day (March 8th), 500 of the north’s strongest and most promising businesswomen gather for the Northern Power Women awards.
In addition to this, the Liverpool-based Future Boss Club was set up by a selection of city businesswomen for young female professionals aged between 18-30. The club aims to empower, inspire and support the north-west’s next generation of leaders, whilst building relationships with like-minded women.
Chair of Future Boss Club, Rebecca Keegan, said: “Our aim when setting up the organisation was not to celebrate current successful women in business, but work with the the next generation. From research we conducted, a large percentage of females set their aims lower than male colleagues.
“Future Boss Club is an organisation which will support these young women in the early terms of their careers, hosting monthly seminars, workshops and discussions on finance management, time management, public speaking, networking and so much more.
“Our bottom line aim though, is to ensure that these young women in the city get to know each other. They are going to rise in their careers together – so it’s important that they have one another as a support network throughout.”
Another project aimed at encouraging powerful women is Manchester's annual feminist festival ‘Wonder Women 2017’ which took place earlier this month. This event creatively counts down to the 100-year anniversary in 2018 of when women first won the right to vote. The festival included a number of talks, exhibitions, theatre, music and other events that brought together women’s groups and networks.
However, one of the main challenges facing women in business is generating interest and support from men, with many gatherings on gender equality heavily in attendance from women. American sociologist, Professor Michael Kimmel believes men often don’t see the importance of the issue, claiming “privilege is invisible to those who have it”.
Female-led groups and events like Northern Power Women and Future Boss Club are crucial to the development of gender equality and the first obstacle to the recruitment of men to the cause. Prof Kimmel argues that men must be aware that gender is as important to them as it is to women.
By working together, male and female entrepreneurs from across the region can continue to strengthen the Northern Powerhouse, and in turn, the UK’s economy.
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