A self-assessment tool to help business support and professional service companies ensure they are not missing out on valuable opportunities will be launched on International Women’s Day, Thursday, 8 March.
North East England Chamber of Commerce developed the tool because research by a wide range of business organisations shows there is often an unconscious bias in how business support and finance growth companies promote their products, which could be putting off female entrepreneurs. This includes a range of issues from the timing and type of events to lack of emphasis on subjects women often see as particularly important, such as increasing their business knowledge.
The Chamber toolkit is an easy to use series of questions to help organisations quickly assess how they might or might not be attracting female entrepreneurs. The survey covers areas, such as how men and women are represented in any imagery used by the business. Another example is that women-owned businesses are often more focused on sustainable profitability than high/fast growth, yet the latter is often seen as a priority in venture capital assessments.
Catherine Johns, Chamber Women’s Advisory Board (which had the initiative as its one of its 2018 priorities), and Innovation Director for Business Durham said: “This toolkit is a quick and easy way for us, as a region, to realise untapped potential within businesses run by women. It will take an organisation five minutes to get a clear picture of how well they provide for both sexes, in all aspects of their operation. I urge all companies to do this for the benefit of their own business development, female entrepreneurs’ growth and the whole region’s economy.”
Ross Smith, Chamber director of policy said: “Women-owned businesses do not access business support and growth finance to the same extent as male-owned businesses. We in the North East have the opportunity to lead the way on creating an economic environment which supports female entrepreneurs in the most effective way.”
The free toolkit lays bare how a company’s attitude to women plays out in the real world in a series of detailed questions which then produces a report on possible areas of improvement for an organisation around gender issues.
Ross Smith said: “When we ran the self-assessment internally it highlighted some really useful points, such as the need for us to put more women forward for media comments and the potential value of some extra unconscious bias training for our customer-facing staff.
“It also reinforced the importance of steps we’re already taking, like paying closer attention to our recruitment processes, and putting a bigger emphasis on knowledge development opportunities for members.
“There are lots of points in here that should help us serve current and future Chamber members even better, so it’s been a really worthwhile exercise.”
The Chamber task group members who also worked on this project were Jackie Barnett, Jackie Barnett Consulting, Yvonne Gale, NEL Fund Managers Nickie Kilkenny, NatWest and Ross Smith and Helena Sansum, Life Saving Training.