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Further specific business support is needed to help women-owned businesses and women in the workplace reach their full potential, according to a new report.

Women in the Workplace is the focus of the latest Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub SmartRegion report which gathers information from its business engagements as well as from CWLEP, Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and other organisations.

Over 79 per cent of women aged between 16 and 64 are currently active in the labour market in Coventry and Warwickshire, higher than the proportions across the West Midlands and nationally.

Earnings continue to differ by gender, with Gross Weekly Pay in Coventry and Warwickshire estimated at £534 in 2020 for women, and £699 for men.

The SmartRegion report says there are 18,000 self-employed women in Coventry and Warwickshire compared to 34,000 men.

Sheridan Sulskis, Executive Director at the Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT), said there are excellent business support schemes available in the area but more could be done to specifically target and support women.

She said: “Business groups and organisations, stakeholders and CWLEP must continue to review the landscape regularly and adapt provisions to create a work environment where people are treated fairly and where everyone feels respected, valued, and empowered to reach their full potential.

“We need to acknowledge and focus on how the workplace and business is changing – automation and digital trends have really accelerated during Covid-19.

“As the economy re-emerges from the pandemic, women’s opportunities for re-entry and re-engagement into the workforce could be made easier by a need to reskill or find new career opportunities.

“We need to encourage women by addressing underlying gender inequalities in society around unpaid care and domestic work. This could be through paid parental leave, affordable access to childcare, and more flexible working options.

“There also needs to be dedicated support for female business initiatives and future female employment in high growth sectors of the economy along with a focus on retraining and upskilling women to access jobs in growth areas such as digital, renewable energy, and the Green Economy.

“Financial support schemes for female entrepreneurs and female-led start-ups in these sectors would give women more financial independence and boost the productivity of the economy.”

Craig Humphrey, Managing Director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said representatives from the Growth Hub, CWRT, FSB, Coventry City Council, and Warwickshire County Council continue to meet on a weekly basis.

“We assess the current business landscape and identify pro-active measures to help businesses navigate the ongoing storm the pandemic has caused which includes encouraging more women to set up their own businesses as well as upskilling in their chosen career paths,” he said.

“It also ensures that we stay up to speed across all the challenges businesses face so we can either put in place emergency support measures, or tweak existing provision, to ensure they are fit-for-purpose.”

Sheridan added: “As part of our response to support even more businesses through the pandemic, CWRT is investing in an exclusive support programme that has been designed by women for women in business called The Financial Fit. This is one of many up-and-coming initiatives that CWRT is dedicated to delivering to help retrain, upskill and boost the confidence of business owners.

“Our collective eco-system has a strong track record in strategy setting and delivery and we continue to use this strength to build a resilient and inclusive business support landscape in Coventry and Warwickshire.”

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