Christine Atkinson is Deputy Director of the Centre for Enterprise and Head of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Hub at the University of South Wales, where she currently heads up the WAVE – Women Adding Value to the Economy – project. Christine also established the Vale Women’s Business Network 11 years ago and has supported over 300 local women to set up in business. She will receive the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion 2014 at Buckingham Palace in July.
“…this is still a non-traditional area for women. So, often their experiences, the challenges they face and their goals are outside of the (male) norm…”
Why extra support for female entrepreneurs is important
Although the number of women in entrepreneurship and their contribution is increasing, this is still a non-traditional area for women. So, often their experiences, the challenges they face and their goals are outside of the (male) norm and standard forms of help and support available. It’s important that we don’t equate being different with being deficient.
Advice for women setting up their own business
Make sure your personal and business objectives and values align. Do your market research so that you know your market, have a clear idea of your unique selling point, who will buy your products or service and who will be your suppliers.
Seek information, advice and support from business support organisations in your area. Ensure that your business is compliant with general regulations and with standards specific to your industry. Network with other business people (male and female) to overcome isolation, learn from their experience and surround yourself with positive people. If possible, find a business mentor.
Extra support for female entrepreneurs
The promotion of more diverse entrepreneur role models in the media would inspire and motivate a wider range of people, including women from different backgrounds and circumstances, to consider entrepreneurship.
We need better mechanisms to cope with credit scoring so that women aren’t penalised in the lending system if they have discontinuous careers.
To overcome the hurdle of fear of failure, as a society we have to become more tolerant, allow people to learn from their mistakes and put that learning to future use; we need better systems to cope with bankruptcy.
Projects to encourage female entrepreneurship
Employed by the University of South Wales as Deputy Director of the Centre for Enterprise and Head of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Hub, currently I’m Co-director of the Women Adding Value to the Economy (WAVE) project which aims to tackle the underlying causes of gender pay disparities in employment and self-employment in Wales.
This is a £5 million project run in partnership with colleagues in Cardiff University and The Women’s Workshop Project @BAWSO and is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the Welsh Government.
In relation to women and self-employment/entrepreneurship, WAVE WISER (Women In Self Employment Resource) offers access to role models, helps to develop women’s business networks, operates a peer mentoring scheme and offers a range of University backed courses including an eight week course on ‘Identifying and Assessing Business Ideas’, a Post Graduate Certificate in Mentoring for Entrepreneurial Practice and a Post Graduate Diploma for Entrepreneurship Practice.
We have also just launched our “Let’s Talk About …” campaign, which aims to generate a national conversation on gender pay disparities in employment and self-employment.