LEPs boards ‘should be more inclusive’ to support women entrepreneurs

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Local Enterprise Partnerships should do more to help female entrepreneurs to thrive, a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) report has found.

Author Lorley Burt MP said LEPs currently have a “inconsistent and insufficient” approach to engagement with women in enterprise.

Women are majority owners in just one in five businesses and are a third less likely to start a business than men, the report said.

Ms Burt, a Liberal Democrat MP and Ambassador for Women in Enterprise, said LEPs could play a crucial role in supporting women entrepreneurs.

Boards should be required to engage with a full range of businesses and reflect gender diversity through all levels of decision making, she argued.

Just seven out of 39 LEPs replied to questions about engagement with female entrepreneurs, the report said. Of the seven, none had more than one female director for every three male directors and none had a strategy for promoting women in enterprise.

LEPs should be required to reflect the diversity of the local population in its boards, the report said.

“Linking funding for growth hubs with KPIs to ensure the LEPs are engaging with business in an inclusive manner would boost standards across Britain and help prevent missed opportunities,” it added.

Barry Dodd, chairman of York, North Yorkshire and East Riding, said the LEP was glad to see the BIS recognise that more should be done to close the gender gap in business ownership.

“Over the years, our board has been hugely benefited by the insights of women in business,” he said.

The LEP is currently recruiting for private sector board members and encourages female entrepreneurs to apply, Mr Dodd added.

A spokesman for Sheffield City Region said it has procedures in place to appoint directors from diverse backgrounds at all levels of decision-making.

“Our City Region has a diverse economy with 1.8 million people and approximately 700,000 jobs and our LEP aims to grow our economy by working with a wide and diverse range of businesses and people to create jobs,” he added.