In the effort to narrow the gender gap between men and women starting up in business, the idea of a women specific facilitiy is sometimes the answer. Different countries (USA) have taken the concept further and have established a network of women business centres, the first opened as far back as 1977.
Studies have shown the high number of women prefer women-specific business support. (Enterprising Women Evaluation and Research Report 2007) The studies show that targeted women’s enterprise programmes alongside the mainstream services were important n helping more women in starting their own businesses.
The Association of Women Business Centres is a powerful organisation in the USA that helps to promote the growth of women’s businesses, where there are approximately 126 government funded women’s business centres alone. In 2008, the UK government with input from other interest groups decided to pilot the US women’s business centre model. Since there are already business enterprise organisations in the UK already that catered for the aspiring business women, the new strategy was to create a world-class standard by which those organisation who provide business support to women groups will be rated by.
Prowess, the UK’s leading non-profit organisation in women’s enterprise development, was commissioned to develop the framework in which to best help to grow the numbers of women business owners. Those who meet the necessary standards will then be accredited with the mark of Women’s Business Centre Quality Standard. The scheme is being piloted in the North West of England and the first organisations credited with the awards in 2010.
The quality standard mark was to help organisations create and deliver high quality of enterprise support in any area of the country. It is also meant to be a guide for women looking to access appropriate resources and ultimately lessen the gap between men and women business start-ups by enabling more women to start their own businesses.
The first UK’s Women’s Business Centre
The first and only purpose built UK women’s business centre is based in the Newham- East London. It first started off as a local project 6 years ago has become so successful that it has now become accessible to other aspiring business women in the London through membership but with many programmes limited to those living in parts of East London. The Women’s Business Centre provides comprehensive business support which includes training, coaching and business advice to women across London.
Women’s International Centre for Economic Development
Based in Liverpool, it is the first UK’s Women’s International Centre for Economic Development. It is due to be completed by the end of 2010. The centre will provide incubation space, women-specific enterprise support and research. It aims be the first to combine those three features together in one organisation. The research is expected to provide the basis for future women enterprise development initiatives and best practice.
Watch this trend grow as privately owned and social enterprises set their own version of the women's business centre concept. The most publised of these is the collaboration between the SEED Network founder Lyne Franks and Regus, the world's largest workspace provider.
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