Interview: Nicky Morgan, Minister for Women
Monday, June 2, 2014
The Conservative MP for Loughborough was appointed to her ministerial role in April.
You recently announced a new £1 million fund to give female entrepreneurs access to superfast broadband. Why?
We want to do everything we can to help UK businesses to get online and take advantage of our exceptional broadband infrastructure. For the early years sector, it will prove invaluable in developing their online capability, freeing up time to focus on their core work.
What other initiatives are there to support female business owners?
We have trained 15,000 new mentors to support anyone setting up and growing a business, including 6,000 specifically for female entrepreneurs. We have also invested £1.6 million over three years to support rural women's enterprise.
Women can also take advantage of our wider business support - for example, the Government's start-up loans.
The help we're providing is working: women-led businesses now represent 20 per cent of all small to medium-sized businesses in the UK, up from 14 per cent in 2007/08, and there are now more women in self-employment than ever before.
What are the barriers preventing more women from starting or expanding their business?
The cost of setting up a business can be one of the most daunting factors, not least in the early-years sector, which is why we established the Childcare Business Grant Scheme. It offers grants of up to £500, and has already awarded 4,500 applicants to help new childcare businesses get off the ground.
Another key issue is ensuring women get access to the right advice and support. It is essential that government advice services are easy to find and deliver what businesses really want; this is why we are developing our 'Business is GREAT' campaign. On the website, anyone thinking of starting a business - and current business owners - can find out how successful entrepreneurs have accessed support and grown their own firms.
How are you supporting working mothers?
We recognise that high-quality, affordable childcare can make a huge difference. One of my priorities is to provide a new scheme for working families - Tax-Free Childcare - from autumn 2015, which will be worth up to £2,000 per child per year.
We are also introducing a system of flexible parental leave by 2015, so that parents can choose between themselves how best to share caring responsibilities. The right to request flexible working to all is also being extended from 30 June.