A GROUP of successful businesswomen came together to discuss how to encourage more female entrepreneurs.

Women are half as likely as men to start a business, according to research for NatWest, which organised the Empowering Women in Business event in Bournemouth.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes, the MP for Romsey and Southampton North, joined a host of Dorset and Hampshire businesswomen for the event at the Cumberland Hotel, on Bournemouth’s East Cliff.

Cheryl Gourlay, NatWest’s national women in business manager, told the gathering that low access to capital, caring responsibilities and a perception that women had lower skills were all factors in the gender gap.

“Twenty-eight per cent of women suffer from imposter syndrome that prevents them speaking up,” she said.

She said a lack of successful role models was also a factor.

Speaking about venture capital investment, she said: “Last year only, one pence of every pound went to female-led businesses.”

Nat West commissioned the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, which found only one in three UK entrepreneurs is a woman.

Only 8.6 per cent of UK women said they planned to start a business in the next three years, compared with 14.3 per cent of men.

On average, female-led businesses are 44 per cent the size of male-led businesses in terms of their value to the economy.

Twenty-nine per cent of male entrepreneurs will eventually achieve a turnover of £1million-£50m, whereas only 13 per cent of women will make the same leap.

Guests at the event agreed to connect their networks to create an “eco-system” bringing together businesses, support organisations and education.

They aimed to organise:

  • A roster of role models to provide careers talks, forums and taster days;
  • Initiatives such as internships, “knowledge transfers” and days in business;
  • More media activity to inspire younger people;
  • Support for, and challenges to, each other to take more action.

NatWest has launched the UK’s first female-only crowdfunding programme, Back Her Business, in partnership with Crowdfunder. It anticipates 50,000 women a year will use the platform to test their business ideas and 5,000 will successfully crowdfund.

It is launching the NatWest Pre-Accelerator Dorset, in partnership with Bournemouth and Poole College, BCP Council, Dorset Council and Dorset Gateway.

The programme is an intensive eight-week online course with a launch event in Poole, aimed at those with a business idea and those who have started a business. Details are at https://bit.ly/2VK15ge

Guests at the event were Fran Collins, chief executive of Red Funnel; Cheryl Hadland, managing director, Hadland Care Group; Tracy Hayden, director of advertising LOCALiQ; Lesley Keets, chief operating officer, Actisense; Pam McConnell, director, Midhurst Child Care; Caroline Nokes MP; Diana Parkes, founder, Women’s Sat-Nav to Success; Rosie Radwell, managing director, Marsham Court Hotel; Claire Skerrett, founder, Picniq; Darren Slade, group business editor, Southern Daily Echo and Bournemouth Echo; Jane Warren, Dorset Growth Hub; Mairead Taylor, director, commercial banking, NatWest; Cheryl Gourlay, national women in business manager, NatWest; Alex Henderson, senior relationship manager, NatWest; Alina Skuba, senior relationship manager, NatWest.