Five thousand women business mentors are to be recruited in an effort to boost the number of female entrepreneurs, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will announce today.
Two days ago, David Cameron condemned the male dominance in Britain's boardrooms amid criticism that the spending squeeze is hitting women disproportionately. A recent leaked Downing Street memo warned that women were deserting the Tories in large numbers over the austerity measures.
Ms May will argue that British women are naturally more entrepreneurial than their counterparts in other countries, but less likely to set up their own businesses.
She will say that 5,000 volunteer mentors are to be appointed and trained over the next three years to give specialist advice to aspiring businesswomen. "We want the UK to be the best place in the world to start and grow a business, and for the next decade to be the most entrepreneurial and dynamic in Britain's history. Women can be at the heart of that."
She will say there are many women with bright ideas and ambitions to strike out on their own, but face particular barriers to going into businesses. They often have worries over such issues as work/life balance, working from home and access to finance. The Fawcett Society, backed by a coalition of more than 20 charities, trade unions and academics, will today urge Chancellor George Osborne to provide a "life-raft for women's equality" in next year's Budget. It will protest that tax and benefit changes are undermining women's independence, and claim that 70 per cent of recent benefit cuts hit women. Anna Bird, the Society's acting chief executive, said: "Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality for women is being dismantled, as cuts to women's jobs and the benefits and services they rely on turn back time on women's equality."
They will call for the restoration of support for child-care costs for the low-paid to pre-April 2011 levels and for funding for Sure Start children's centres to be ring-fenced.