Pathways: A New Approach for Women in Entrepreneurship

Last week, the Scottish Government published Pathways: A New Approach for Women in Entrepreneurship. This landmark report was overseen by tech entrepreneur Ana Stewart and the Scottish government’s chief entrepreneurial adviser Mark Logan, and was commissioned to help identify ways to unlock untapped potential, close the gender gap and boost Scotland’s economy.

We met with John Cushing, CEO and founder of mnAi, who provided detailed data analysis for the report.

The report “seeks to change how we think about the under-participation of women in entrepreneurship, to more rapidly and effectively move our society away from its current extreme gender imbalance in this field of endeavour.”

Startups founded by women in Scotland currently receive only 2% of overall investment capital, representing, the report states, a “denial of opportunity on an industrial scale”.

Just how significant is the report, and its findings?

“It’s the most comprehensive report of female entrepreneurism ever undertaken in Scotland,” says John Cushing.

mnAi use proprietary data and technology to supply unique research, analytics and insight on all UK companies.

“The Stewart Report lays bare the fact that fundamentally things just aren't moving on as fast as they should be,” says Cushing.

“This is in spite of some amazing achievements by female entrepreneurs in and across Scotland - much more needs to be done to support their ambitions, particularly growth stage companies and those seeking investment. The report not only lays bare the problem, but also identifies the solution. That's the critical part of all of this, that the Pathways Report actually does exactly what it says – it lays a pathway to success.”

“With 12bn+ data points, our core product is a data asset encompassing 9m+ UK companies and 37m+ people that is updated and refreshed in real-time,” Cushing says. “Our unique insight on hard-to-find data points including emissions, diversity, gender, productivity, investment, debt, grants, financials and more, helps improve decision making, increases efficiency and removes complexity. Having learned about our gender disaggregated algorithms and the work we did with the 2022 Rose Review and The Gender Index, Ana and her team extended an invite to also support her ground-breaking research.”

The report makes 31 recommendations such as tailored funding packages, attention to diversity in education, and quotas to ensure women get proper recognition and a fair share of investment.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the list of recommendations as “compelling”, adding: “The review’s findings are challenging but underline the need to tackle the root-causes, as well as the immediate barriers, of this inequality … The Scottish Government will respond quickly to the review as a whole, and its recommendations.”

Despite the progress made in some areas there is work to be done.

“I'm very confident that things will change... however this is a collective issue,” says Cushing.

“From secondary education to investment capital, I think we all have a responsibility to support those in need or who need help. Being a business owner is not easy, and yet many people choose to do it day in, day out so why should my gender make a difference to my ability to grow my company? It shouldn’t. This report presents the facts and now it’s up to all of us to make a difference.”

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