It’s about time!

The month of March saw International Women’s Day 2019 celebrated and IOEE Centre of Excellence the University of South Wales held a partnership event called “It’s About Time!”. The event involved well over 100 women who own businesses in South Wales and was based on ongoing research with women who are entrepreneurs and mothers with a view to better understanding their experiences.

Christine Atkinson, Head of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Hub, University of South Wales, says, “A unique confluence of female entrepreneurship policy developments underpinned the inaugural event in a new collaborative campaign in Wales on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2019, the response to which far exceeded our expectations and further strengthens our commitment to partnership working”.

The “It’s About Time!” Summit arose from a collaboration between the University of South Wales, NatWest, BizMums South Wales, FSB and Darwin Gray Solicitors (Cardiff). With confirmation that only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is female and that the proportion of women owned businesses in Wales stands at around 28%, the partnership came together to address this well established under representation of women in entrepreneurship. The theme of the event, the impact and influence of ‘time’, is one of several emerging from ongoing research being conducted by the partnership into the experiences of women who are entrepreneurs and mothers.

Role model keynote speakers Andrea Callanan (International Speaker, Coach, Author and Founder of Inspire Me) and Jennifer Barnfield (The PEPP Method) gave insights into their experiences of learning to understand and use time effectively in their exciting and busy lives.

Over 100 women who own businesses in South Wales took part in the event, the supporting BizMums Market Place and in discussion groups considered a range of topics under the headings of: ‘The ‘right’ time (When is the ‘right’ time to start up, develop or grow a business?); Goals, Planning and Strategy (What is the interplay between short and long term goals? How do personal and business goals change over time?); and Worklife balance (How relevant is the need for flexibility? Do expectations regarding flexibility match the reality of being an entrepreneur?) The discussions resulted in a series of questions for an after lunch panel session. The debate involving Ceri Gillet (Business Coach and Founder of The Business Mother Club), Marsha Ward (Founder and CEO of Refresh HR, The Number Hub and The Pub Hub), Alison Wright (SMB Lead for Azure at Microsoft) and Anne Timpany (CEO and Founder of ATRA Group) started with the provocative question “Why do women feel they have to do it all?”

Further areas of discussion centred on the need for relatable role models, the need to change perceptions so that failure becomes an accepted route to learning and the need for better understanding of what ‘growth’ might mean and look like in women owned businesses. The event culminated in two announcements regarding future support for women in entrepreneurship. In parallel to the launch in London, Cheryl Gourlay (NatWest Cymru) announced the Treasury commissioned “The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-alison-rose-review-of-female-entrepreneurship

Finally, Helen Walbey (Chair of Welsh Government Advisory Board on Female Entrepreneurs, FSB UK Policy Holder for Support & Diversity and the Home Office and Managing Director of Recycle Scooters) introduced “Supporting Entrepreneurial Women in Wales: An Approach for Wales” together with an accompanying 2 year action plan and guide to good practice in business support https://gov.wales/supporting-entrepreneurial-women-wales-approach-wales

In the Foreword to this highly significant new approach, Ken Skates AM, Minister for Economy & Transport sets out the commitment and ambition of Wales: “By encouraging, supporting and increasing the number of women entrepreneurs we will help create a Wales that is prosperous and economically secure, and make Wales a country that leads the way for women entrepreneurs to start, grow and develop their businesses”. With a general positive response to both initiatives for the priority placed on addressing key barriers and strengthening business support experienced by female entrepreneurs at all stages of business, there was a strong call for conversion of policy into action. Participants were invited to make their contribution by pledging their own individual commitment towards positive change.

Following the success of the inaugural event, the “It’s About Time!” campaign partners intend working together on this and other themes into the next year and are currently planning for Global Entrepreneurship Week in November. Thank you to the USW Team: Dr Geum Young Min, Business School, Dr Hazel Mawdsley, Business School, Claire Wright, Business School, Coralie Slight, Equality and Diversity, Human Resources