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 in which it calls for the next government to encourage and support greater levels of female entrepreneurship, to maximise employment and career development opportunities for women and to also bridge the gender gap in skills.
The calls have been made through the NECC’s Women’s Advisory Board, chaired by Nickie Gott, who 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.”
The NECC said 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.
IT is providing major growth opportunities in the North East, but only 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.
“We have launched our programme for women in business because we want businesses in the North East to be globally competitive, and it has been shown that businesses making the most of female talent perform better.”
Jo Hand, managing director of Jo Hand Recruitment is also supporting the programme.
She added: “We have a responsibility to bolster the talent pool of women with senior leadership and management experience and this programme brings attention to the untapped potential in our region.”