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14th March 2022

Breaking Biases in access to funding – Female business leaders in the North

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Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund

Following on from International Women’s Day, Sue Barnard, Senior Manager at British Business Bank, reflects on the experiences of female business leaders when it comes to accessing finance

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to showcase the extraordinary work of female entrepreneurs and business owners in a male-dominated space.

This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, and is focused on taking action against the deliberate and unconscious biases that make it difficult for women to move ahead. These include unfounded prejudices that women are not as capable as their male colleagues when it comes to leading and growing a business.

Here at the British Business Bank, we understand the importance of showcasing and promoting the successes that female-led businesses are achieving because of access to funding.

By promoting the growth and progress of women business leaders, we can encourage others to seek access to funding as well. By placing women front and centre, we can break down biases in our communities and workplaces, by demonstrating that the path to a stronger North is one that can be led by brilliant female leaders.

The Bank’s regional funds, such as the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), are a great example of this in action. Our network of leaders in finance are working hard to provide greater support and access to investment for ambitious female-led businesses and we are already seeing progress. According to data from the mid-term evaluation of the Fund, a survey investigating the makeup of senior management teams found that seven in 10 (71%) had mixed gender senior management teams. It is evident that more needs to be done to increase these numbers even further.

Businesses play a fundamental economic and societal role. Board rooms and management teams should seek to have diverse groups of people from society, so that everyone’s views are heard, and all stakeholders are represented equally. Diversity of people, experiences, and ideas can bring huge benefits for corporations, helping them identify opportunities in places they may have previously overlooked. Leaders who share common experiences with the people they manage, can better help and support them, which will only boost performance and motivate their work force to do better.

NPIF has supported many strong female-led businesses since its launch in 2017.  One of these includes Fresh Perspective, a Lancashire-based recruitment agency that received a £35,000 investment from NPIF – BFS & MSIF Microfinance in April 2020, managed by GC Business Finance and MSIF and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. Founded by sisters Emily and Laura Leyland, Fresh Perspective is a fantastic example of how women are shaking up and innovating within traditional industries.

Speaking to the Fund on International Women’s Day, Christina Colmer McHugh, founder and director at Hull-based Moodbeam, reflected on the importance of female support networks and being aware of who is innovating and supporting in your space. Christina and co-founder, Jonathan Elvidge, established the mental wellbeing company in 2016, and secured two rounds of investment from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finances in 2019 and 2020.

Since investment, the business has been able to provide valuable insights into wellbeing and mental health in the workplace, creating a device dedicated to changing lives. It is important for the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund to provide women business leaders with the financial support networks to flourish and enable them to bring innovative ideas to life.

Looking ahead, it is crucial that the bank’s regional funds and its partners continue to improve access to finance for businesses led by women. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to not only reflect on the current state of play, but serves as a reminder to push forward for equality and to empower women to keep breaking down biases and barriers. International Women’s Day is an important moment to take stock of the Bank’s work with women that face barriers to succeeding and turning their dreams into reality.

In our goal of achieving a stronger North, it is pivotal for all to acknowledge that the quickest way of reaching that goal is by making sure everyone is included along the way.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

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