A growing economic force: Asian female entrepreneurs

Written by Barbara-Ann King on 7 March 2012 in Opinion
Female entrepreneurs in the Asian community must support each other in order to support economic growth

We know from recent research that there are now a large number of ethnic entrepreneurs in the UK, owning close to 250,000 small businesses and representing over 11% of all new business start-ups. Despite this good level of entrepreneurial activity, the most recent Global Entrepreneurial Monitor: Women’s Report uncovered that women are still considerably lagging behind men in early stage entrepreneurial ventures.

This lag can be attributed to a number of different factors, not only in gender but also in lifestyle and culture. We know that female entrepreneurs, especially in Asian and South Asian communities, are on the rise and are increasingly featuring amongst the world’s business elite on rich lists and at business award ceremonies, yet substantial changes need to be made in how this entrepreneurial talent is nurtured and developed if women are to prosper and gain as much of the limelight and recognition as male business leaders.

What is clear is that female entrepreneurs across a broad range of backgrounds can often have different needs – as well as business aims – to their male counterparts. This is a consideration I feel strongly about and have been keen to address for some time now.

As Head of the Female Client Group at Barclays Wealth, we developed a programme to support women in managing their personal wealth, as well as their business and lifestyle needs. We recognise that whilst we are all individuals, men and women engage with both their personal and business finances in different ways, and as an organisation we need to respond to this and offer a more holistic approach that works for the growing number of women who are starting up a business or running their own successful ventures.  

To highlight the differences in how men and women approach their financial commitments, research conducted last year by the Barclays Wealth Female Client Group showed that wealthy women, across the world, were less risk averse than men when it came to their investments. As well as this, women admitted they had lower composure when it came to their finances and found delegation less useful than men did.

We often see these same personality traits in female entrepreneurs, which is why we set up specific and designated forums for women to come together, to network and to share ideas, insight and best practice.

The desire to connect women in this way is why earlier this month we launched our forum for Asian Female Entrepreneurs at an event at the House of Commons hosted by myself and the inspirational Baroness Verma, who has started up three multi-million pound businesses throughout her career, in addition to being a House of Lords member and Conservative Party Government Whip. The event gave leading Asian businesswomen and female entrepreneurs the chance to come together from all backgrounds and all parts of the UK to discuss the obstacles to greater entrepreneurship for Asian women.

The businesswomen who attended the launch told me what a good opportunity it provided to meet some truly successful and inspiring women, which further reinforced the importance of having such forums and initiatives in place. We were thrilled to receive the support of Baroness Verma who said of the event: “What is a recognised fact is that the number of women led businesses is growing and that there is a strong business case for banks and other business support organisations to ensure they meet and respond to this increasing market’s needs. It was therefore a pleasure to join Barbara-Ann and her team at Barclays Wealth in hosting a room full of dynamic Asian Female Entrepreneurs at the House of Commons.

“The launch event created a platform for the entrepreneurs to build links and networks that offered support and informal mentoring amongst themselves as well as working with Barclays Wealth on how best the bank could also respond to the different challenges and barriers female entrepreneurs faced when starting up and then on trying to take their businesses to the next level. It was widely accepted by everyone attending, the importance of these kinds of events and for female led businesses to feel confident that they are able to have strong interaction and dialogue with the bank and business support services. Barclays Wealth should be congratulated on this initiative.”

My hope for the new forum is that it will bring Asian businesswomen together to not only share mutual experiences but also provide mentoring to budding Asian female entrepreneurs, in order to overcome the significant financial and cultural barriers that currently exist. I truly believe that fostering female entrepreneurship is part of the lifeblood of economic recovery – it is only once we truly support women in business that we will see just how much potential the female economy has.

Barbara-Ann King is the head of female client group at Barclays Wealth 

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