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Challenges faced by women in business ‘amplified’ by Covid, research finds

·2-min read

The historic challenges faced by female entrepreneurs has been “amplified” by the pandemic, new research suggests.

A study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in 2018 found 231,390 jobs in Scotland were created by women-owned businesses and contributed £8.8 billion annually to the economy.

Research by Professor Norin Arshed of Dundee University – which included 12 focus groups from six regions in Scotland, one-to-one interviews with 12 businesswomen and 26 enterprise support organisation staff members – found access to finance, networking and social cultural barriers were exacerbated during Covid-19.

Female-owned businesses such as those in the retail, beauty and fitness sectors were hit hardest by lockdown restrictions, which closed all but the most essential firms to stem the spread of the virus.

Prof Arshed called for a “one-stop shop” to be created for financial support and assistance, citing the need for increased speed in the delivery of funding.

Women interviewed told Prof Arshed they were juggling their career and other responsibilities such as childcare and home schooling when schools were closed.

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The research found issues often faced by women in business worsened due to the pandemic (PA)

“My children and schooling are predominant,” one woman from Edinburgh said.

“I had a new addition, which was my parents who are elderly, so while they were independent prior to this, all of a sudden they were shielding.

“I was having to manage various things for them as well. I guess the caring commitments broadened and I guess the need to provide support in the community also extended as well.”

As well as speeding up access to funding, the report pushes for seed funding for female businesswomen to be facilitated, offering mentoring opportunities and lowering the cost of and expanding childcare to help women in the world of business.

But the research also found that some women-owned businesses were able to expand during the pandemic, thanks to the shift to a more digital-focused environment as restrictions forced people to work from home.

Others reported a structural change within their business, with a particular focus on flexibility at work.

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