Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Chancellor's Winter Economy Plan: Our Reaction

 As we look towards an uncertain Autumn and Winter, it is essential that the self-employed and women-led enterprises are properly supported to protect jobs, incomes and livelihoods.

In today’s (Thursday 24 September) Winter Economy Plan we heard The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announce a further package of financial support measures to protect jobs, but there is still an urgent need to invest in women focused policies and to make sure the previous gaps in support are properly filled in.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “While the Chancellor’s acknowledgement that we must see parity for the self-employed is of course welcomed, we really must question whether the new schemes outlined today go far enough. Particularly when we consider the scale of the gaps we saw in the earlier Coronavirus business support schemes and the thousands who fell through these, leaving their incomes unprotected and putting businesses, jobs and livelihoods at risk.

“Take, for example, the 40,000+ new mothers who took maternity leave in the last assessment period and were unfairly disadvantaged under the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), and the PAYE and Limited Company Directors who were left without access to an appropriate package of financial support.

“We must also critique the Chancellor’s position that "we cannot safeguard all jobs", based on the theory that if businesses still need to furlough employees now, that these jobs were never viable. This simply is not true. Take those working in the events industry as an example - these jobs would have been viable if there were not a pandemic, and they certainly will be again post-pandemic, but by then it will be too late.”

“There still remains an urgent need to put women focused policies in place. We know that women have been disproportionately and negatively impacted by the pandemic and the support in place must reflect this. What we need to see now is substantial investment to help women to start and grow sustainable businesses, particularly among diverse communities and BAME and disabled women. Further to this, we need to see policy which values women-led sectors, like the beauty and care sectors, which are typically experiencing a slower return to trade. Investing in the UK’s women entrepreneurs will be crucial in re-opening and growing our economy”.

Monday, September 14, 2020

New charity partnership will remove barriers for disadvantaged women across the Liverpool City Region

Two leading charities have come together through a new partnership which will support disadvantaged women across the region.

A national charity has chosen Liverpool-based social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, to help it reach out to disadvantaged women and improve their chances of finding employment or starting their own businesses.

Smallwood Trust was founded in 1886 to help women overcome financial difficulties and improve their social and emotional wellbeing.

It provides grants and support for women on low incomes who have specific needs and are struggling to make ends meet, or trying to overcome financial problems.

Now, it has teamed up with The Women's Organisation to support women across the Liverpool City Region as part of a three-year partnership.

The Women's Organisation works to support women from wide ranging communities to take a more active role in social and economic life and has supported the ambitions and personal development of more than 60,000 women over the past 24 years.

It helps women in setting up and growing their own businesses, as well as providing personal development training and support to help women grow in confidence and take positive steps towards securing employment.

Smallwood Trust is now supporting The Women’s Organisation to remove barriers for women wanting to access its programmes, or those facing barriers to taking their next steps forward.

The funding from Smallwood Trust will allow The Women’s Organisation to identify women with additional barriers preventing them from realising their ambitions and offer discretionary solutions to meet their needs. 

Through its work, The Women's Organisation can provide the support needed for women to improve their personal situations, either through targeted training courses, or business coaching with the aim of setting up as a small business, or the provision of incubator facilities at its 54 St James Street headquarters in central Liverpool.

The collaboration is timely as the impact that coronavirus has had across the world is felt even more keenly by women, according to The Women’s Organisation.

It has compounded the economic impact, as women and girls tend to work in the industries which have been most heavily impacted by the pandemic, and so they are generally earning less, saving less, and holding insecure jobs or living close to poverty.

With children out of school and nurseries closed in recent months, unpaid care work has increased and heightened the care responsibilities of women, who tend to find themselves as primary caregivers.

Maggie O'Carroll, CEO of The Women's Organisation

Maggie O'Carroll, co-founder and chief executive of The Women's Organisation, said: "The catastrophic effects of COVID-19 have been felt across communities globally, particularly among women who are facing socio-economic crises differently and often disproportionately. Particularly in terms of increasing levels of deprivation, inequality when it comes to balancing care responsibilities, and even abuse as the pandemic forced households into lockdown for several weeks. 

"Now, the need is more acute than ever for us to reach out and offer the support to vulnerable sections of our society and help them to overcome the issues that are holding them back from improving their, and their families' lives.

"We are incredibly grateful to Smallwood Trust for recognising our efforts in providing such support, and joining us to extend that help in such desperate times."

Emma Crump, Head of Evaluation at Smallwood Trust, says: “Smallwood Trust are delighted to partner with The Women’s Organisation to support vulnerable women in Liverpool on their journeys towards financial resilience. 

“The package of support means that women will be able to access vital education and skills whilst overcoming any financial barriers. We look forward to the learning from the partnership and seeing the difference it will make to women’s lives.”

Friday, September 4, 2020

Press Release: Schools have gone back – time to look at the impact of lockdown on female business leaders.

North West female business leaders have spoken of the pressures and challenges of working through lockdown – amid fears of the long-term impact on gender equality in the workplace. 

Members of the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) “Rising Stars” group of female executives have revealed in frank and honest testimonies their experiences of working through lockdown.  The Rising Stars are a network of female directors, executives and professionals from NWBLT companies who have been brought together to support and encourage the careers of women in a bid to increase the gender balance and representation at senior levels in workplaces across the north west.

In the report and interviews the group have spoken of their fears over the long term impact of the pandemic for working women – as well as the effect on gender equality in businesses across the UK.  The pressures of home-schooling, fears over the impending recession and concerns over company measurement of individual performance were all highlighted by members of the panel.  But the professionals have also highlighted some of the positives that can be gained from the unprecedented situation with home working and greater flexibility potentially a boost in the long term for women to advance their careers.

JoĆ«lle Warren, Founder of Warren Partners and NWBLT Board member commented “The NWBLT has long recognised the importance of diversity at the top level of businesses in the North West.  Its “Rising Stars” group was set up to support the aim of increasing gender balance at senior leadership levels across all the members and was starting to have a positive impact.  Covid 19 has increased the challenges facing female executives, particularly those with young children, and we want to highlight this and encourage all businesses to consider the issues raised by this report”.

The NWBLT brings together leaders of national and international businesses with substantial commitments and interests in the North West of England. A unique regional entity, funded entirely by our members, we work to exert our collective influence for the long term good of the region, economically, environmentally, culturally and socially.   

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

North West social enterprise selected as European leader in nurturing inclusive entrepreneurship

The Women’s Organisation has been announced as one of the best in Europe for supporting and nurturing inclusive entrepreneurship.

Selected from over sixty approaches across Europe, the Liverpool-based organisation has been named as one of just three projects which exemplify the very best approaches to supporting women’s entrepreneurship.

The Women's Organisation has supported over 70,000 women
to take a more active role in social and economic life

Initially set up in 1996 to promote business opportunities for women, The Women’s Organisation now delivers a broad range of personal development, education and business support programmes aimed at helping women to become more economically active and personally fulfilled.

The internationally recognised social enterprise has supported over 70,000 women from diverse communities to take a more active role in social and economic life and has helped create more than 4,000 businesses since its inception.

Although its services are predominantly targeted at those in the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, the organisation works on an international scale to ensure that women's interests are represented across communities, business, and government policy.

Its enterprising qualities have now been recognised in a Europe-wide scheme led by the European Network of Innovation for Inclusion to promote exemplary systems for employability.

The Women’s Organisation was invited to apply as part of the network’s annual call for good practices in the fields of innovation, inclusive employment and entrepreneurship.

It has now been named as one of just three finalists from throughout Europe in the category of ‘supporting women’s entrepreneurship’.

The network judged entries in four areas: Innovation, inspiration, impact, and inclusion.

It looked for evidence of answering new challenges using new methodologies and approaches, a willingness to improve and develop through alliances, the ability to cause changes in people and society, and promote the inclusion of people at risk of social exclusion.

The Women’s Organisation explained how, since it was established, it had targeted women, in particular, who were socially and economically disadvantaged, and provided support services for women and under-represented groups in creating and growing their own businesses.

This is achieved through various programmes including personal development, business planning and business skills training.

Through its 54 St James Street headquarters, which was established as an international centre for women’s economic development – a worldwide first - it also provides business incubation facilities for start-up ventures which are then supported to scale-up.

Another key enabler for the organisation is its ability to work closely with leading academics, thinkers and influencers to inform policy development and improve the wider environment for women entrepreneurs.

Lisa McMullan, Director for Development & Consultancy at The Women’s Organisation
Lisa McMullan, Director for Development & Consultancy
at The Women’s Organisation

Lisa McMullan, the organisation’s Director for Development and Consultancy, said: “It is a hugely significant accolade to be selected as a best practice example of inclusive entrepreneurship at European level and one that we are incredibly proud of. To be hand selected from over sixty approaches from across Europe is testament to our values-driven approach to developing, designing and delivering services.

“Our commitment to inclusion and innovation means that we have been able to make a difference to tens of thousands of individuals over the last twenty four years, supporting them to fulfil their potential and participate more fully in their communities, the labour market and in business.”

And when participants successfully establish their own business ventures or personal goals, she said The Women’s Organisation will seek to highlight their achievements to act as an example, or role model, for others within their communities to follow: “We actively promote women's achievements to raise visibility of the individual and collective potential, and provide opportunities for the women we work with to be role-models for others.”

In naming The Women’s Organisation as a finalist, the network said: “It has been a really hard decision to make, since we have received a total of 64 proposals, but both our technical team, the methodology managers and other members of the evaluation committee have agreed that what The Women’s Organisation is doing provides a very impactful and inclusive response to the challenges women face towards starting a business.”

As part of the process, the finalists will share their winning methods and strategies with a Europe-wide community. For The Women’s Organisation this will include a presentation and tour – physical or virtual – of its headquarters, the opportunity to meet some of the women they have worked with for them to share their stories and discuss the impact of accessing support, and working collaboratively to share examples of successes and challenges, making it easier for similar agencies across the continent to replicate these proven systems and strategies and to work together.

Find out more about the European Network for Inclusion here: