North East business leaders are urging the future government to back women in business – an essential element if the region is to meet its economic potential.
The North East Chamber of Commerce has launched its general election programme for women in business through its Women’s Advisory Board, calling for action to: encourage and support greater levels of female entrepreneurship; maximise employment and career development opportunities for women; and bridge the gender gap in skills.
Nickie Gott, Chair of NECC’s Women’s Advisory Board, said: “Our general election programme for women in business is a fundamental element to growing the success of our region.
“The North East’s economy does not perform below potential because of the poor performance of its businesses, but because it does not have enough businesses.
“Female entrepreneurs have been making a huge contribution to addressing this deficit and we need to build on this.
“Women have different skills and with tailored business support, targeted advice programmes and focused efforts to reduce youth unemployment among females, more women can get a foot on the career ladder and help drive North East business forward.”
Many vital industries for the North East face serious skills shortages in the years ahead and within these industries there has been significant under-representation of women in the workforce.
Information Technology is providing major growth opportunities in the North East, but just one in five employees in the sector are women. Over the last year NECC has been working on a project supported by the Government Equality Office to promote more girls pursuing STEM skills.
NECC Director of Policy, Ross Smith said: “Growth opportunities could be missed if the gender imbalance is not tackled.
“We want to see focused efforts to increase girls’ interests in digital and STEM subject areas through schools, colleges and universities to increase interest in joining these sectors.”
Jo Hand, Managing Director, Jo Hand Recruitment is also supporting the programme.
“In order to set a good example to future generations we need to promote greater numbers of female leaders in entrepreneurship, the private sector, politics, government and the public sector,” she said.
Supporting women in North East business is one of the NECC’s top policy priorities.
The region’s largest membership organisation has run a series of inspirational events for women, championed best practice among member businesses, and spearheaded a drive to increase girls’ interest in the region’s vital STEM industries.