Real Leadership can deliver £7.08 billion to our economy

In September past, the HM Treasury launched a review into barriers for women in business and while it reported that the UK is one of the best places in the world to grow a business, it also found that women are half as likely as men to be involved in starting one.

The review found that only one in three entrepreneurs are women and that closing gender gap could add an additional £250 billion in Gross Value Add to the UK economy, equivalent to 4 years of economic growth. Northern Ireland’s potential share of this is £7.08 billion!

The same review found the five key barriers that lead to lower rates of entrepreneurship amongst women are: low access and awareness of capital; greater risk awareness; perceived missing skills & experience; disproportionate primary care responsibilities and; a lack of relatable sponsorship, mentorship and role models.

At Women in Business we understand the need to tackle these five obstacles and keeping female enterprise at the top of the agenda. On International Women’s Day we launched the new three-year programme, ‘Yes You Can’ supported by Invest NI and the 11 councils, aimed to assist female entrepreneurs in breaking down these barriers.

We are excited and energised to support these, our wonderful entrepreneurs who are talented, skilled and have so much to offer our economy - £7.08 billion to be precise. However, these findings and the need to implement real, tangible change compound the need for strong leadership in business, and in Northern Ireland.

Having just come back from the St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House in Washington where the current incumbent moves from one crisis to another, from one blunder to blunder, I must acknowledge the very recent great example of leadership, that of the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She has already had a remarkable impact on world politics but, in the wake of the appalling Christchurch shootings, the 38-year-old politician has proven she's a true leader for modern times.

The youngest female Prime Minister New Zealand has ever had, and only the second world leader to have given birth while in office, she represents something entirely new in world leaders.  She embodies the best attributes of optimism, common sense, approachability and, most of all, empathy.

In her debut speech to the United Nations Assembly in New York last year, she reflected that, for true progression for all, “MeToo must become WeToo” and she demonstrated her wise and worldly views, asking for global cooperation and kindness from all leaders present which was met with thunderous applause.

Her recent actions in the wake of the tragic events in New Zealand clearly indicate that their applause was well warranted. Through her kindness and inclusivity, she has shown that not only is she deeply empathetic, but she is strong and decisive – and can lead in times of chaos and tragedy.

Her compassionate handling of the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand’s modern history saw her shift the global focus from the gunman to the victims and her decision to wear a hijab while visiting those affected by the tragedy was another small but powerful visible indication of her empathy.

Her political response was equally progressive and decisive. Within 36 hours of the shooting, she had mobilised politicians to tighten up gun laws and has since announced sweeping and immediate changes banning assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics.

This is the type of leadership we all need and deserve, including here in Northern Ireland. We need leadership which strives to implement the initiatives set out by the Rose Review.