MP Julian Huppert has paid tribute to Cambridge’s female entrepreneurs but said the government needs to go much further in supporting women in business.
He told a Parliamentary debate that too often the country doesn’t hear about women entrepreneurs, they are the unsung heroes and women often suffer discrimination and the view that they should not be innovators.
Education needs to be more gender-neutral, says Julian with girls encouraged to take subjects which are not traditionally feminine.
And the government should be working with the British Bankers Association to try to change the problems women entrepreneurs face in securing initial funding.
Julian said: “So long as we have a society that stereotypes and gives the impression that women should like pink things and should be doing feminine jobs we will be weakening our economy and making our society less fair, which is the exact opposite of what we want. We want opportunity for everyone.”
He paid credit to technology entrepreneurs, Lily Bacon, co-founder of Cambridge software company, RealVNC, Martina King at Featurespace, Julie Barnes at Abcodia and Annie Brooking at Bactest and Emily Mackay at Crowdsurfer. And the “excellent work” of Sherry Coutu, “an angel investor who helps entrepreneurs in a whole range of things”.
Outside technology he credited Julie Deane, who co-founded the Cambridge Satchel Company in 2008 with her mother.
“Only a couple of years later, they were making at least 3,000 bags a week in the UK and selling to 86 countries,” he said. “It is an amazing company.”
Julian said that, although progress had been made on women and equality Britain still has a society where women are expected to take a disproportionate share of child care.
“We need to break that apart, and we have introduced shared parental leave, which is important not only for women but for men,” he said. “We have also worked to encourage parity of pay for men and women.”
But he said that so long as the country does not have more women entrepreneurs, it is missing out on a “pool of talented, able people who could contribute much more”.
“Whoever forms the next Government, and whoever is in the next Parliament, I hope that women entrepreneurs will be prioritised,” he said.
Julian said later: “We have come a long way in recent years in making this country a more equal place for women but there is still a long way to go. Until we make it easier for women to succeed in business and challenge the stereotypical images and the discrimination we will miss out on a wealth of talent that could bring huge benefits for our economy.”