Thirty-one ideas designed to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs are being ’carefully considered’ by government, Nicola Sturgeon said today.

The First Minister signalled that the Scottish Government will ’respond quickly’ to a range of recommendations in a new report it commissioned from influential business leaders.

‘Pathways: A New Approach for Women in Entrepreneurship’ looks to identify ways to unlock untapped potential, close the gender gap and boost Scotland’s economy.

They include making it easier for women – who research shows are more likely to be ‘primary carers’ or ‘home managers’ – to access entrepreneurial-focused education, mentoring and business support services.

Geographical ‘pop-up’ locations such as empty retail spaces in shopping centres, libraries, schools, colleges and similar would bring entrepreneurial support closer to where it is needed, the report found.

Other recommendations in a the review – led by entrepreneur and investor Ana Stewart and Mark Logan, the Scottish Government’s chief entrepreneur – include greater financial support for childcare, to allow women the time to embark on entrepreneurial careers, and integrating entrepreneurial education into schools and further education.

Clarifying existing access pathways into entrepreneurship, improving access to start-up and growth finance, tracking and measuring progress towards full representation in entrepreneurship – for example mandating greater female participation in investor decision-making, especially when it comes to co-investment with the public and private sector – and working to address societal gender-stereotyping through education were also proposed.

The authors write in their foreword: “Most investigations into under-participation in entrepreneurship constrain themselves to the proximate causes of that under-participation, that is to say, the most immediate and visible causes. The present report goes beyond this level, following the chain of cause-and-effect through to its underlying root causes. We believe that to do otherwise is to render remedies to under-participation ineffectual and/or temporary. Therefore, our recommendations follow a portfolio-based approach, targeting both the most visible and the underlying causes of under-participation. 

“On such a journey, we inevitably confront an uneasy truth along the way, which is that our society is, to a degree, sexist, and not just at its extremes, and that this has a considerable bearing on participation levels in entrepreneurship, amongst many other fields. To make genuinely meaningful progress in addressing under-participation requires us to accept that reality, and its consequence.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I welcome Ana Stewart and Mark Logan’s work in delivering a powerful review of the barriers facing women in entrepreneurship in Scotland and presenting a compelling set of recommendations aimed at removing them.

“The review’s findings are challenging but underline the need to tackle the root-causes, as well as the immediate barriers, of this inequality.

“Fully realising the entrepreneurial potential of women in Scotland will not only promote greater equality in our society, it will also deliver significant benefits for the economy. 

“The Scottish Government will respond quickly to the review as a whole, and its recommendations.”

Review chair Ana Stewart said: “This review has, through a combination of extensive stakeholder engagement and robust data analysis, revealed that women face many significant barriers to entrepreneurship.

“Only one in five businesses in Scotland are female-led, while start-ups founded by women received only 2 per cent of overall investment capital in the last five years. By taking a root cause and effect approach, our recommendations focus on dramatically increasing female participation rates to drive a vibrant and fairer entrepreneurial economy.”

The First Minister welcomed the publication of the review – which was commissioned last year by Kate Forbes – on a visit to Roslin Innovation Centre, where she met Ishani Malhotra, chief executive of Carcinotech, and Dr Kate Cameron, who founded Cytochroma.

Niki Mckenzie, joint managing director of Archangels, the business angel investor group, said: “This report is a significant milestone, which highlights fundamental issues preventing women’s ability to maximise their potential in business in Scotland. The fact that female-founded start-ups received only two per cent of overall investment capital over the past five years, demonstrates there is something essentially wrong with the system and it’s important that we understand the underlying root causes of gender bias in entrepreneurship.

“The Scottish Government must consider the report’s innovative and wide-ranging recommendations very carefully and ensure that positive actions are taken to effect change. This is not just about creating a fairer economy, it’s about cultivating all of the talent we’ve got here in Scotland which, in turn, will increase our entrepreneurial capacity and drive economic growth.”

To read the review in full, click here.