Catherine Rutter, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador to Yorkshire and the Humber, seeks further collaboration and support to assist women-owned businesses in the region.
Catherine, a woman in business herself, wants to encourage collaborative thinking to shine a light on the challenges faced by women-owned businesses and help build on the incredible innovation that is already happening.
Simple; More needs to be done to help women-owned start-ups get where they need to be. As a region, we must increase cooperation and encourage female business leaders to share their experiences in order to unlock and maximize the growth potential of what constitutes essentially half of the population.
And a key driver of that growth will be innovation. Whether it’s new products and services or simply using technology to increase productivity, we need to work together to ensure equal opportunities for all.
Innovation and productivity go hand in hand. For both to grow, we need to help women-led businesses of all shapes and sizes across all industries access the tools and support they need to take an idea and turn it into success.
However, the idea of innovation can sometimes be overwhelming, especially for people who are changing their careers or have an idea but have no experience of how to make it a reality. But I believe more can be done to educate women about the different forms innovation can take, and building trust from a young age is an important part of that.
By including women at a younger age, we give ourselves the chance to change paths for the next generation. We need to show young people that they can truly achieve anything they put their minds to, and we need to start explaining that entrepreneurship is an option for a career.
But to do this successfully, we need people who will nurture these ambitions and encourage creative and critical thinking from the very first opportunity. If we can have role models that support women from a younger age and even participate in school-led career discussions, we can begin to build a culture that will support women in achieving their long-term career goals in the business world.
It is invaluable for women to have access to relevant programs and training to help them achieve their business goals. Whether it’s role models, mentors or peer-to-peer networks, it’s essential to support each other by creating a sense of community. Providing real-life examples of innovation can also enable entrepreneurs to see firsthand how they can take their ideas and turn them into reality.
Encouragingly, we have a lot of support in the region. For example, the ESF-funded #WECAN project, led by Leeds Beckett University, helps businesses identify their needs and come up with a plan to achieve their goals.
There is also the £22m West Yorkshire Business Acceleration Fund, which provides a place for women entrepreneurs to receive advice, guidance and mentorship and connect with other like-minded businesses.
From our interviews with women in Yorkshire and Humber, we know that 38% seek leadership skills, 36% digital skills and 31% seek help finding talented employees. Through our Lloyds Bank Academy, we offer free online digital packages designed to give people and businesses the confidence to develop their skills. This includes training in designing a sustainable and customer-focused strategy, how to be a more effective leader, and how to work and collaborate effectively.
The digital world is constantly evolving and we know that one in five (23%) have digitized their business since day one. Lloyds Bank is partnering with Google and Microsoft to help stay on top of the changing digital landscape and provide the most up-to-date support, as well as put small businesses on the path to success from the ground up.
Creating the right environment
However, it would be negligent for me to say that building a supportive network like this is a walk in the park, as knowing where to turn for support can be overwhelming when you’re your own boss. However, our research shows that 42% of women-led businesses in Yorkshire would like access to case studies of people who, like them, have gone through the same journey.
Sharing personal experiences can give someone the confidence they need to pursue their ambitions and unlock the support we have across the region. And it just won’t help in the short term. By fostering innovation, companies tend to survive longer, weather economic shocks more easily, and introduce new ideas that attract new investment.
But time isn’t always a luxury, so searching for the right information and having the headroom to absorb it can be difficult.
As part of our mission to help women-owned businesses, all the advice we share is based on that organization’s understanding and is specific to its leader. We are also committed to the diversity of our own team so we can match women-owned businesses with colleagues who can understand the specific obstacles and struggles they face.
While innovation is a key driver of growth, it will be a peer-to-peer combination of knowledge and expertise that will truly help support women entrepreneurs in our region.
Yorkshire and the Humber are a great place to live and work and we will continue to stand by businesses and support women and their innovation ideas to help the region thrive for generations to come.
Read the full Women Entrepreneurs: Northern Perspective report here.