Penny Mordaunt: female entrepreneurs are “resilient, resourceful and remarkable leaders”.

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During her speech at the The Telegraph’s Women Mean Business Live event, the Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mourdant, spoke about the challenges facing female entrepreneurs and how with the right support “we can have 1.1 billion more women entrepreneurs and 95 billion added to the UK economy by 2025”.

For some women, particularly working mothers, their entrepreneurial endeavor begins out of necessity, and Mordaunt acknowledged this by remarking how such women “can’t find employers who understand flexible hours or the unique problem faced by juggling priorities with debts, they just do it themselves”. She said that she wanted to see these  “entrepreneurial mothers” thrive in the business world. In 2014, these women brought in over £7 billion to the UK economy and helped sustain over 200,000 jobs.

“Remember Ginger Rogers saying that she did everything Fred Astaire did but she did it backwards and in heels? Well these days it is more likely to be with no back up and in debt.” – Penny Mourdant 

As Mordaunt pointed out in her speech, the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the US are black women, who currently run about 2.4 million businesses. This is also the group with the least access to capital. It is the “conditions of success” – networking, confidence and support – that allow them to overcome this barrier.

In September, the Treasury announced an independent review into the barriers women face when starting their own businesses. This review is being led by RBS’ CEO of Commercial and Private Banking Alison Rose.The review – expected in the Spring – will consider issues such as whether women are less likely to seek or receive financial assistance, what factors cause the disparity between male and female entrepreneurs and how banks and investors can avoid gender-bias.

Currently, only 20% of small and medium enterprises in the UK are owned by women. If as many women ran their own business as men, then it would generate an estimated extra £180 billion into the economy by 2025. One of the main barriers that detract women from becoming entrepreneurs is a lack of networking opportunities, contacts and confidence – roughly 25% of women give this as a reason for not starting their own business. That’s why female led initiatives like Make It Your Business are so important, and I’ve seen first hand the difference that putting entrepreneurial women together in the same room can do. 71% of women struggle to name a female role model. Sometimes it takes seeing someone do something and do it well, to make you see that you can do it as well.

In the words of Penny Mordaunt, female entrepreneurs “reinvent the world one day at a time, and they do it quietly”.

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