WEST Yorkshire businesswomen have delivered a strong message to the Coalition Government – with calls for increased and continued financial support for small and new businesses.
The message came from a consultation event run by Forward Ladies, the organisation which supports professional women in business and which numbers scores of Kirklees businesswomen among its members.
The 50-strong audience, comprising a cross-section of professional women, gave their opinions on a number of key business topics.
Sarah Morgan, deputy head of gender equality policy and inclusion at the government’s Equality Office, set the scene – saying that women made up 51% of the population and 46% of the workforce, yet only accounted for one in 12 directly elected mayors and just 2% of those chairing FTSE 100 companies.
Delegates to the meeting in Leeds voted on aspects of the economy – ranging from easier access to finance to how deep the public spending cuts have impacted on small businesses.
Other areas of concern included the numbers of women on the boards of companies, tax incentives for SMEs, banking sector support for firms, red tape, business mentoring and the importance of links between business and education.
Guest speaker Sarah Dickens, director for people operations and policy at Asda, explained how the company listened to its employees to get the best business solutions. Leeds-based Asda has 180,000 employees, 60% of them women. Females also make up 80% of its customers.
Ms Dickens said the recent acquisition of 147 Netto stores was creating new opportunities in the company for female managers, but added: “Many women need to be tapped on the shoulder and encouraged to grow their careers and told ‘you can do it!’”
Etta Cohen, of Forward Ladies, said: “It is important to get the views of professional women in Yorkshire and to be able to feed them back to the relevant organisations so that we can instigate and lobby for change, if it’s needed, to improve the profitability and competitiveness of our region and women’s contribution to it.
“It was the first time we have held such a comprehensive and important consultation with our members and we are extremely pleased that we were able to facilitate such an intelligent and meaningful discussion with topics relevant to professional women.”