Will women save the economy?

In a Real Business survey of the UK’s most entrepreneurial women, 43 per cent of repsondents said they plan to increase the number of employees within their business over the next 12 months, while four in ten said they plan to maintain current staff levels.

Take Laura Tenison, for example. The founder of maternity and children’s wear brand JoJo Maman Bébé says she’s still recruiting and the company has grown 12 per cent this year: “If you look at our website, we’ve got job vacancies up there right now. But we’re not always rushing to replace people who leave naturally. Both my PA and our PR officer went on maternity leave and didn’t come back – so I’ve taken on those roles. But what’s another two jobs? Admittedly I don’t get much sleep. I was up at 4am this morning, reading through all my emails.”

All of the female respondents felt the recession would irrevocably change the business landscape. A whopping 92 per cent said they expect to see more women running businesses when the economy turns.

“The downturn is going to create a lot more entrepreneurs as people lose their jobs – and 50 per cent of those are going to be women,” says Margaret Manning, founder of The Reading Room, one of the top digital agencies in the UK. “Research has shown that when a woman loses her job, she doesn’t lose her sense of self identity as much as men do. They’re more likely to just pick themselves up, get on with it, and go out there and create their own businesses.”

Real Business columnist Margaret Heffernan agrees: “During the last recession in the States, there was an explosion of female entrepreneurs. There are now more women with more business experience than ever before in history. And many of those women, like men, have been laid off, they have their redundancy payments, they have time on their hands, and they’re going to find new opportunities for themselves. There are some economists who said that it was the growth of women-owned businesses alone that brought the US out of recession. If they could do it then, they can do it now.”

If you would like to meet entrepreneurial women in the UK, book a place at the 2009 First Women Awards, held in association with Lloyds TSB and supported by the CBI. For more information, contact us on 020 7368 7123 or email en1@caspianpublishing.co.uk

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Related articles:Britain’s 100 Most Entrepreneurial Women

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