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The Government has ordered the first ever “serious review” into the funding gap preventing women from becoming business leaders in Britain.
A day after 200 business leaders, entrepreneurs and MPs signed an open letter published in The Telegraph urging the Government to put money aside to boost female entrepreneurship, the Treasury has pledged to examine the challenges facing female entrepreneurs.
The review will result in a report later in the year which will be a “call to arms” for the financial sector to “sit up, take notice, and to act” to help break down the barriers women face when trying to access funding for a business in this country.
Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said the Telegraph’s “incredibly important” campaign had highlighted the need to “shine a light on the challenges that women who want to set up a business face”.
One in eight women currently want to launch their own business in the UK. Mr Jenrick told the Telegraph that helping more of these women to access the capital they need presented “a massive economic opportunity to the UK”.
“The greatest economic opportunity out there to day is harnessing the talents of women that are currently untapped,” he said.
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Mr Jenrick said the Treasury had instructed the British Business Bank - the government-owned business development bank which works to support small businesses - to review the evidence that women are restricted in their access to funding in this country.
He said: “We propose today that later in the year, armed with the evidence from the British Business Bank, we will put as much of that as possible into the public domain and use that as a call to arms for female entrepreneurs, and for everyone else in the banking and venture capital sector to sit up, take notice and to act. “This isn’t just a women’s problem, it’s a problem for everyone.”
An exclusive Telegraph poll revealed yesterday that two thirds of female business owners find they are not taken seriously by investors and banks when trying to secure funding. In a poll of 750 female LNP business founders conducted by Censuswide, 65 per cent said they had been unfairly treated by financial services when trying to raise funding.
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Meanwhile, almost half of the women surveyed said they had been told they needed a man to help them. The letter, signed by Samantha Cameron and Baroness Brady, marked the launch of The Telegraph's "Women Mean Business" campaign calling on the Government to take measures to help close the gap which sees women receive just nine per cent of per cent of funding into UK startups.
It came as all around the world, women mobilised to mark International Women’s Day. In Spain, 5.3 million women across the country went on an unprecedented strike to call for equality in the workplace and at home.
Dubbed the “feminist strike”, picket lines appeared throughout Spain as women walked out of their jobs for 24 hours. Meanwhile in Paris, the French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to “name and shame” companies that pay women less than men for the same work.
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In London, BBC staff gathered outside Broadcasting House to call for equal pay. Journalists including the corporation’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet and Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey stood holding sheets of paper displaying equal signs as they chanted “Equal pay for equal work”.
A huge cheer went up for Carrie Gracie, who resigned as BBC China editor earlier this year over pay inequalities, as she was brought to the front of the crowd.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel put out a video saying women should not rest on their laurels. "The fight for equal rights continues," she said, adding that much remained to be done "so that women have the same rights as well as the same duties as men... we will get there."
In Iraq’s second city, Mosul, 300 women ran a symbolic marathon of 900 metres down the main street, with many women carrying placards calling for the end of marriage to minors. Meanwhile, Iran's top legal authority reportedly wants to prosecute the organisers of a party in Tehran City Hall to mark Iranian Women's Day on Tuesday. Islamic law in Iran prohibits public dancing.