Women urged to think big

by Jonathan Moules
www.ft.com

A group of multinational companies is backing a new government initiative aimed at reducing the barriers to female entrepreneurs securing large corporate contracts.

Women in Enterprise Connecting to Contracts (WEConnect) is a certification scheme for businesses that care at least 51 per cent owned by a woman.

Pfizer, Microsoft, Bank of America, Accenture and other large corporations that have already signed up to the scheme will be able to use WEConnect’s database to find businesses that could bid for contracts and help meet diversity targets. Companies that have gained WEConnect certification will in turn get an inside track on what work is being put to tender by these companies.

Although 16 per cent of UK businesses are female owned, they only win 3 to 5 per cent of corporate and public sector contracts, according to Women’s Enterprise Task Force (WETF), the government body that has created WEConnect.

Pam Alexander, co-chair of WETF and chief executive of the South East England Development Agency, said: “By creating new routes to procurement opportunities, WEConnect will encourage more women to think big, expand their businesses and achieve their potential.”

WEConnect is based on a US scheme, created 11 years ago. Gordon Brown, when he was chancellor, said that if the UK could achieve the same level of entrepreneurship as the US, it would have three quarters of a million more businesses.

Joe Hill, executive vice-president at Bank of America, which was an early supporter of the US scheme, said it was not about filling quotas and WEConnect companies would have to compete for contracts as usual. “From a supply chain standpoint, the more diverse your supply chain is, the stronger it is,” he said.

He added that there was also an element of “enlightened self interest” in that women-owned businesses who were helped by WEConnect might consider banking with Bank of America, given its early support for the scheme.


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