First entrepreneur-in-residence helps university’s plans to boost female entrepreneurship
By Lucy Ashton
IN a bid to accelerate women’s entrepreneurship to support inclusive economic growth in Scotland, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, has appointed its first-ever Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Carolyn Currie, chief executive of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, pictured above, says her appointment will help strengthen the university’s culture of entrepreneurship, encouraging and supporting more staff, students and graduates to start their own businesses, and helping fulfil the university’s goal to become a leading centre of excellence for female entrepreneurship.
As a prominent champion of female entrepreneurship, Carolyn will help QMU play a vital role in addressing the gender imbalance which currently exists across the Scottish entrepreneurial landscape. She will lead on the empowerment and education of women who have the potential to develop as successful entrepreneurs, and encourage them to achieve their full potential.
It is estimated that women-owned businesses in Scotland currently contribute £8.8bn to the Scottish economy every year and generate more than 230,000 jobs across Scotland in the process – according to a 2018 Federation of Small Business report.
The Rose Report on Female Entrepreneurship states that up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men. In response to the Rose Report, the UK Government announced its ambition to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2039, equivalent to nearly 600,000 additional female entrepreneurs.
Carolyn’s appointment will assist the university in its ambitions to establish a Women’s Business Centre. This would be a new physical centre located within QMU’s planned Innovation Hub, which will be part of the Edinburgh Innovation Park.
Kim Stuart, director of Research & Innovation and the Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Unit at Queen Margaret University, explained: “We know that women do not lack ability or ambition, yet only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female: a gender gap equivalent to 1.1 million of missing business.
“Female-led businesses are only 44 per cent of the size of male-led businesses on average, in terms of their contribution to the economy, and male SMEs are five times more likely to scale up to £1million turnover than female SMEs.
“It is imperative that we tackle the gender divide and inspire, motive and equip women to realise their potential by removing barriers and pro-actively nurturing talent.”
Kim continued: “Through a focus on female entrepreneurship, QMU champions the synergies between the drivers to promote innovation, enterprise and gender inclusion. Already, nearly two-thirds of QMU’s start-up companies are created by women, and we aim to lead the way in promoting women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship.”
Queen Margaret University’s principal, Sir Paul Grice, said: “QMU has a proud history of supporting educational and career opportunities for women dating back to 1875, so is delighted that Carolyn has accepted the position of our first Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
“Not only will she be an exceptional role model for our students, graduates and staff, she will be integral in raising Queen Margaret University’s profile as a champion of women’s entrepreneurship and a driving force for post-pandemic economic recovery.”
According to the Rose Report, fewer UK women choose to become entrepreneurs in the UK/Scotland than in some other countries such as Canada, Australia and the Netherlands: The UK also lags behind many peer countries on gender parity – for every ten male UK entrepreneurs, there are fewer than five female entrepreneurs.
A recent survey conducted by RBS during the pandemic stated that nearly three quarters (71 per cent) of female entrepreneurs found managing their business stressful compared to half of men (55 per cent).
In addition female owners and entrepreneurs were 17 per cent more likely to have struggled juggling business and family life since the pandemic began than men – 40 per cent compared to 57 per cent – suggesting that women have shouldered more of the responsibility for childcare, home schooling and household maintenance.
Women are also more likely to be working in sectors that are hard hit by the crisis, including hospitality and non-food retail.
Supporting women to apply their expertise in starting a business now can help preserve vital skills and build back the economy.
Carolyn Currie said: “I am delighted to take up this post and to support the next generation of strong, entrepreneurial women at QMU. We have a huge opportunity to harness the research and innovation work underway and create exciting new businesses to power the Scottish economy. Already, women across Scotland have benefitted from the digital womensbusinesscentre.com and I look forward to building on this pioneering work with QMU.”
Sir Paul Grice said: “To aid economic recovery from the pandemic, it is critical we remove barriers and harness the talent pool which we know exists within our female population. Carolyn Currie is a highly-experienced business leader whose work is celebrated internationally and who has impressive connections across industry and government.
“Her experience in business and as an advocate of women’s entrepreneurship will help to drive forward the University’s work in embedding entrepreneurship within QMU’s culture and supporting and inspiring a new generation of student and graduate entrepreneurs. This work builds on the excellent support our students and graduates already receive from our on-campus Business Gateway service and from being part of our Business Innovation Zone.
“Looking forward, Carolyn will be at the heart of our ambitious plans to establish a Women’s Business Centre which will help unleash some of the untapped potential that exists within our female population.
“We want to be a catalyst for supporting female entrepreneurs – ensuring that new female entrepreneurs are encouraged and equipped to bring their ideas to fruition and that women with existing businesses are supported to scale up and reach their full potential.”