#IWD2018 – Dee Stirling in The Independent

Over the past weeks, I have been invited to a number of events related to International Women’s Day, which will be celebrated worldwide on 8 March. It got me thinking about the brilliant women in my world, of all ages, who give me vital energy and hope in so many ways and whose example spurs me on in work as an entrepreneur and in life.

The power of women behind women was also part of my personal impetus as a co-founder of The New Entrepreneurs Foundation, of which I am also a trustee. The New Entrepreneurs Foundation, home to Centre For Entrepreneurs, is one of the UK’s leading programmes for developing the entrepreneurial leaders of the future, attracting hundreds of applicants from all over the world and taking up to 50 each year, funded by numerous major corporates and private donors.

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The combination of a full-time role with the CEO and management team of a successful entrepreneur-run business, an education programme covering everything from resilience to writing a term-sheet, events with the ‘great and the good’, a mentor, a coach and above all, living this experience as a cohort and part of a broader group of alumni make it comprehensive.

It provides bright young people with the tools, the access, connections and the self-belief they need to become successful entrepreneurs.  Some key facts: now 200 alumni, 46 on our current programme, 92 ventures launched, the founders of which have raised £30million in early stage funding and have created over 1000 new jobs. It is happening and it is serious.

Yet whilst we have the highest representation of women on any entrepreneur-related programme in Europe, in my view, we still don’t have enough women applying. In a world where the pay gap between men and women persists, we are doing our all to encourage more young women to apply and take the leap.

Recent research conducted at Aston University as part of its Annual Global Economic Report suggests that the actual rate of entrepreneurialism in the UK has grown much faster in the past decade among women rather than men. Nevertheless men are still almost twice as likely to be entrepreneurs, with 53 women entrepreneurs in the UK for every 100 men entrepreneurs.

Every year since we launched The New Entrepreneurs Foundation, women from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences have shared their concerns about running their own business. There is also a consistent chasm between those who wish to become entrepreneurs and those who actually start businesses.

My advice to all of them is to give it a go, if they feel this is where their passion lies. Building a business or creating anything of value is like ascending Everest: the key is to get started. It will be a life-enhancing experience whatever the outcome.

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