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International Women’s Day: UK gov backs women-led business

  • UK government to deliver a GBP 50K cash injection to 40 top female entrepreneurs
  • The next generation of women-led businesses threatened by childcare issues
  • UK business and consumer confidence jumps to pre-pandemic levels
  • Pound Sterling (GBP) rises, but Bank of England (BoE) Governor warns caution amid pre-COVID normality hopes

Today (March 8th), on International Women’s Day, we celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements, including female founders in business.

The annual event also aims to underpin gender equality campaigns, recognising the challenges women face worldwide to try and shape an equal future for men and women.

The UK has celebrated International Women’s Day for more than 45 years, and today, we’ll shine a light on the achievements of some of Britain’s most inspirational female business leaders and how the government plans to continue supporting women-led business.

There have been many prominent female figures in UK history, and an abundance of stars are on the rise.

If we were to name them all, the list would be endless. But some of the most respected and recognised women in the UK include the CEO of Everton Football Club, Denise Barrett-Baxendale MBE, who arrived at the football club in 2010, developed and led a transformation strategy for Everton.

We also want to highlight Bristol-based lawyer and female entrepreneur Marti Burgess‘s achievements. Marti Burgess has been advising and acting for small and medium-sized businesses for twenty years.

Another top female entrepreneur in the UK is former Sage Group CEO Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, who has worked on initiatives with several leading businesses and serves as Non-Executive Director for Rightmove, Costain Group, and FDM.

Today, the UK government also announced a new programme to encourage women’s business inspirations and help tackle the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top female entrepreneurs

UK government provides GBP 50K grants to 40 female founders

According to Science Minister Amanda Solloway, the UK government will offer 40 of Britain’s top female entrepreneurs a GBP 50K cash injection to scale up their operations and support business innovations as the country “builds back better” from the pandemic.

The programme, which includes bespoke mentoring – was announced today to mark International Women’s Day and provide funding to 40 female founders across the UK, from Scotland to Wiltshire.

The grants are also part of a more comprehensive initiative – the government’s flagship Women in Innovation Awards, established by Innovate UK. The Women in Innovation Awards is a branch of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), aiming to unlock a potential GBP 180BN for the UK economy by boosting women-led business.

Innovate UK seeks to find female entrepreneurs and co-founders with ambitious plans and novel ideas that will inspire the next generation of women.

But while the GBP 50K cash injection will support new ventures, a leading female entrepreneur has warned that a generation of women could be lost to the pandemic and that the UK government needs to prioritise a childcare revolution.

Female founders

A new generation of female entrepreneurs at risk of being left behind

UK entrepreneur Ren Kapur MBE said that the next generation of female founders is at risk of being held back by the economy due to the childcare sector’s current setup.

Ren Kapur MBE has urged the UK government to review childcare policies and revolutionise the sector to allow women to overcome the challenges of primary care responsibilities.

She highlighted worrying data from Ofsted, who reported that 75,336 nurseries face closure in the next 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, equivalent to approximately 20,000 businesses.

The UK entrepreneur believes that access to affordable, quality childcare is crucial to women’s successful workforce participation. She added: “women could become trapped in an economic and social ambush post-pandemic: you lose your job and have a bright business idea, but then your local nursery closes. You may then find that the fees for another nursery in your area is exorbitant, so you ditch your business plans to stay at home and care for your children.”

Ren Kapur notes that without a childcare revolution, the inequality gap in business will widen. She urged the UK government to be “brave, bold, radical thinking about what we as a nation can do to ensure this important sector in society meets future challenges.”

Ren Kapur will hold a summit on childcare later into 2021 to address the issue and look to unravel why childcare is so expensive in the UK, and develop long-term strategies and solutions to the growing crisis.

With the UK seeking to return to pre-COVID normality in the coming year, Ren Kapur highlighted the importance of ensuring women can make a triumphant return to the workforce and the significance of their contribution to the broader economy.

UK business and consumer confidence jumps to pre-pandemic levels

According to the latest poll from YouGov, UK business and consumer confidence have jumped to its highest level since the onset of the pandemic.

YouGov revealed that UK consumer confidence rose to 105.4 in February, up from 103.4 the previous month, with expectations for an increase in economic activity, housing prices and household finances cited as the reason for the jump higher.

Meanwhile, BDO’s Services Optimism Index showed that UK business confidence surged to 94.13 in February from 86.60 the month before – a new 12 month high.

The Index covers a wide range of industries, including those hardest hit by COVID-19, such as hospitality and retail,

It seems that after a harrowing year, UK companies are beginning to feel more optimistic about their prospects, courtesy of Britain’s rapid vaccine rollout and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit roadmap.

The initiatives and schemes announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his UK Budget 2021 have also boosted hopes of a robust economic recovery, albeit some employers are still unsure of their ability to access talent and experience from overseas due to Brexit.

According to recent reports, the UK government plans to reform immigration to support start-up firms and businesses with internationally mobile staff.

While this could leave some critical sectors of the economy excluded from support, rising business and consumer confidence appears to be overshadowing concerns over limited access to migrant workers.

Pound Sterling (GBP) supported by rising UK business and consumer confidence

Pound Sterling (GBP) extended advances against the euro (EUR) and other major trading rivals such as the New Zealand dollar (NZD) on Monday after BDO published data revealing that UK business confidence soared to a 12-month high.

At the time of writing, the British pound to euro (GBP/EUR) exchange rate is trading 0.3% higher at EUR 1.1652, while the British pound to New Zealand dollar (GBP/NZD) exchange rate is 0.4% higher at NZD 1.9371.

GBP/NZD briefly hit a fresh multi-month high of NZD 1.9461 earlier in the session, but expectations that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) will increase rates in 2022 appears to be preventing more bullish upside in the GBP/NZD cross.

However, several Foreign Exchange analysts maintain the view that NZD/GBP will weaken into 2021. The euro (EUR) is also forecast to decline against pound Sterling (GBP) this year.

Although unresolved Brexit tensions could trigger some volatility in the GBP/EUR cross, the UK’s declining COVID-19 cases, rapid vaccine rollout and promising transition out of lockdown support the outlook for GBP.

Meanwhile, EUR is having to contend with rising coronavirus cases, lockdown extensions, vaccine woes and the possibility of further policy action from the European Central Bank (ECB).

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