August 11, 2020, by Ingenuity Lab
“I believe equality is everyone’s business” – Lorna Treanor comments on WEPG Framework Launch
This blog is written by Dr Lorna Treanor, Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Haydn Green Institute
I have been supporting and/or researching women entrepreneurs for twenty years either as an economic development/management consultant or as an academic. Women face additional barriers within employment and in relation to starting and growing a business and these issues are greater for women of colour.
The research evidence base clearly establishes the issues – now we need policy makers to take these issues into consideration when devising policy. More importantly, when there have been oversights, these must be remedied urgently. I believe equality is everyone’s business and that’s why I was motivated to join forces with other like-minded academics and organisations across the UK regions to form the Women’s Enterprise Policy Group (WEPG UK). We started discussions about WEPG in November 2019 before the global pandemic.
Since Covid-19, we have seen the small business community suffer greatly with data showing that women-owned businesses have been worst hit by the pandemic. Typically operating in services (such as beauty and hairdressing) and hospitality sectors, women-led businesses were often the first to close but one of the last to re-open. Many women entrepreneurs were also excluded from support packages announced by the Chancellor due to the age or growth trajectory of their businesses, with some of the criteria directly discriminating against women. For example, periods of maternity leave were not taken into consideration when calculating average income to determine potential grant aid. This does not correspond with the spirit of equality legislation! During lockdown, home-schooling and childcare responsibilities more frequently fell upon women which impacted upon their ability to work in their businesses -where they owned businesses that did not have to close due to the pandemic. For women entrepreneurs in communities worst hit by Covid-19, the impacts were even more severe.
Social media was awash with stories from entrepreneurs who have been excluded from the government’s Covid business support schemes. These individuals have experienced severe anguish about how they can provide for their families, pay mortgages and other bills, maintain their businesses long-term and retain valued staff. It sounds a bit of a cliché, but every statistic represents a person – an entrepreneur losing their livelihood, in some cases, their life’s work, with their families facing financial hardship and their employees facing uncertain futures.
We couldn’t stand by and watch this unfold – we analysed the policies, listened to people’s stories, heard about the challenges businesses faced. So, the Women’s Enterprise Policy Group devised a ‘Framework of Policy Actions to Build Back Better for Women’s Enterprise’ which we launched on 11 August 2020 which aims to address the gaps in Covid-19 enterprise support for women.