Theresa May reveals £2m mentor scheme for female entrepreneurs

Home secretary says package helps women fulfil their potential, but report warns austerity measures turn back time on equality

Theresa May announced a package of measures on Friday that aspires to help women "fulfil their potential" in business, as a report accused her government of undermining human rights.

The home secretary, who is also the women's and equalities minister, outlined a £2m scheme that will see 5,000 volunteer mentors trained by next year to provide role models for female entrepreneurs.

The announcement comes as polls indicate that many women have become increasingly disillusioned with David Cameron and the cuts programme.

It coincides with the release of a report by the Fawcett Society warning that women's rights are under unprecedented attack amid growing evidence that austerity measures are "turning back time" on equality.

May told businesswomen at the Royal Commonwealth Society in central London that the training and support material used by the new business mentors, to help those wanting to set up or expand their own business, will reflect the specific needs of women.

"Business people tell us that they want to take advice from other business people," said May. "So the business mentors will be experienced individuals, who can provide tailored support and advice. They will be a huge help to women entrepreneurs." She also said that the government would introduce a women's business council.

"For too long, as a country, we have failed to make the most of the skills, experience and talents of women and despite the difficult decisions that need to be taken, there is much we can do to make sure that our economy emerges stronger and fairer, and operates in the interests of the working majority.

"Change will not be easy and it will not be quick. It will take a comprehensive effort to tear down the barriers women tell us they face," she said.

The home secretary said she wanted to help all women, not just the highest earners, by increasing flexible working and flexible parental leave. She stressed that it "isn't just a question of fairness, it's also one of economic strength".

"Too many women who are working part-time don't feel they can go full-time, or those with a great business idea do not feel able to strike out on their own and start their own company. This means that too many women do not fulfil their true potential. The policies I have talked about today, like flexible working and flexible parental leave, will help. They will make a real practical difference," she said.

The Fawcett Society report released on Friday claimed that women's financial security and human rights are under attack on a scale not seen in living memory. It claimed to show how government cuts have pushed women out of the workforce, driven down their income and undermined hard-won access to justice.

The number of women out of work is at a 23-year high. Two-thirds of local authority jobs cut by local councils since the first quarter of 2010 were held by women.

Entitled A Life Raft For Women's Equality, the Fawcett report claimed to offer key policy recommendations to reverse the impact of cuts on women. These included ringfencing funds for Sure Start centres and restoring support for childcare costs for low income families.


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Women disproportionately affected by austerity, charities warn
Coalition of charities says Conservatives’ planned cuts to social security, public sector and legal aid risk widening gender inequality

Damien Gayle

28, May, 2015 @4:17 PM

Article image
Government cuts threaten gender equality gains, warns report

Audit says all but richest women doing worse than in 2008, with single mothers and disabled among those bearing brunt of cuts

Jane Martinson

12, May, 2013 @11:05 PM

Article image
Gender pay gap: government should lead by example, says Maria Miller
Women and equalities minister wants departments to publish pay data as part of 'cultural change' to stamp out inequality

Jane Martinson

07, Nov, 2013 @4:58 PM

Article image
How David Cameron's cuts strategy is losing him the support of Tory women | Rosie Campbell and Sarah Childs

Rosie Campbell and Sarah Childs: Despite Cameron's attempts to woo them, Conservative women are far less fond of public sector cuts than Tory men

Rosie Campbell and Sarah Childs

17, May, 2012 @12:17 PM

Article image
Health unions urge Theresa May to ditch NHS pay cap
Unions representing cross-section of healthcare staff increase pressure on government to use Queen’s speech to lift 1% restriction on pay rises

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

19, Jun, 2017 @5:01 AM

Article image
Harriet Harman: Theresa May 'is no sister' on women's rights
Labour veteran to say that the PM is a ‘drag anchor’ against equality but also that it is ‘raining men’ at the top of her own party

Anushka Asthana Political editor

23, Sep, 2016 @4:50 PM

Article image
Theresa May warned of Tory revolt over school spending cuts
George Osborne among nine MPs who met education secretary to raise concerns about proposals for new funding formula

Jessica Elgot

17, Mar, 2017 @4:11 PM

Article image
Police force threatens to sue Theresa May over funding plans
Exclusive: West Midlands force may take action to make home secretary reveal formula behind plans to switch funds from city police to county constabularies

Alan Travis Home affairs editor

04, Sep, 2015 @5:52 PM

Article image
Theresa May to Police Federation: you don't like me, but I don't care
Unfettered by coalition, the home secretary’s speech could be summed up as ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’

John Crace

20, May, 2015 @5:10 PM

Article image
One-woman play makes visible the female faces of cuts to our public spending | Alison Benjamin
Joanne, at the Soho Theatre, depicts five women at the frontline of overstretched public services dealing with the fallout from one unseen young woman’s life

Alison Benjamin

20, Oct, 2015 @12:00 PM