By Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Economic inequality remains deeply embedded in society and although Scotland and the UK has come a long way in recent decades, women remain in the minority when it comes to owning and running businesses in Scotland.

Statistics from Business Gateway highlight that men are still almost twice as likely to start businesses as women. Factor in the recent impact of the pandemic which revealed that women were 47% more likely to have permanently lost their job or quit, and 14% were more likely to have been furloughed since the start of the crisis and it’s clear that women still have a mountain to climb.

SCC are actively working to support more female leaders and role models across Scotland who can inspire an inclusive style of leadership in business and civic Scotland.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce is proud of its record when it comes to supporting women in business, with many of our Chamber Network now led by female chief executives.

We have specifically run dedicated business support and entrepreneurship initiatives for women such as Women’s Business Mentoring and Future Female Business Leaders. These initiatives resulted in the successful matching of over 2,000 businesses with experienced business mentors including 77 female business owners matched with a dedicated business mentor.

The B2B mentoring offered to businesses delivers real results including new jobs, increasing turnover and new orders. We have also increased the number of women-owned businesses supported through Business Mentoring, increasing from 39% in 2016 to 47% in 2019.

It is worth highlighting that there is also plenty of evidence to show that emphasis on diversity is key to business and economic success.

A drive to support more women to succeed in business is not just morally right, but also proven to generate better performance for businesses. More women on boards and in senior positions leads to better innovation, improved sales revenues and margins and increased satisfaction and productivity. For example, McKinsey reports that gender diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their national median.

The Scottish Government recognise the importance of supporting women in business and Scotland’s first female Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Kate Forbes, has highlighted investment in the Women’s Business Centre and the Women in Enterprise Framework in the recently published National Strategy for Economic Transformation. This should open up opportunities for more women to enter the labour market, start businesses and increase female entrepreneurship over the coming decade.

SCC remain dedicated to playing our part in supporting the current and next generation of female business leaders and as Scotland’s business community collectively rebuild our economy and return to growth in the wake of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be more opportunities than ever before for female entrepreneurs and business leaders to forge the road ahead.