BEING an entrepreneur is not solely the preserve of the male of the species. That’s self-evident. And Scotland has many examples of women who have excelled in business.

Ann Gloag, Ann Budge, Freda Newton and Marie Macklin spring to mind immediately as examples of female business leaders who have risen to the top and, importantly, make it their business these days to share their experience to encourage other entrepreneurs – male and female – to put their ideas into action and take the plunge.

Last week’s report from the University of Strathclyde’s Business School and Aston University the number of new female entrepreneurs in the UK has risen far faster than men in the past decade is encouraging. However, the same data revealed men are still nearly twice as likely (10.4 per cent) to start their own businesses than women (5.5 per cent).

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Here in Scotland there’s no doubt our start-up community is thriving. And I can’t remember a time when as many women as there are now were ditching the nine-to-five and breaking out on their own – people such as Leah Hutcheon of Appointedd, Kirsten Lord of PhysioWizard and Marie Owen of LS Productions. These young female entrepreneurs have brought their ideas to life and are prepared to take on the world, from right here in Scotland.

But the statistics demonstrate that there is yet more potential to make a greater impact on the economy. According to GenAnalytics, despite being 50 per cent of the working population in Scotland, women are majority owners of just 20 per cent of all businesses. In addition, only one per cent of all Scottish businesses with 250 or more employees are run by a woman.

According to separate research by the University of Strathclyde, just having more female entrepreneurship has the potential to generate a £13 billion economic boost and 5.4 per cent growth in the Scottish economy. There’s much to go for.

The vision of Entrepreneurial Scotland, the membership organisation of which it’s my privilege to be chief executive, is for Scotland to become the most entrepreneurial society in the world. And if, as a society, we are to achieve this and make a real difference to Scotland’s economy, we need to enable the creation of more organisations of scale – enterprises that create jobs and wealth and display an entrepreneurial culture. The only way in which we will truly have the impact that we want on the Scottish economy is to see more businesses that operate at a truly global level.

Now I hope – am confident even – that, from the current crop of leaders of early stage Scottish businesses, we have the potential to produce leaders of businesses of real scale. These are the role models and inspiration to their peers and the next generation.

But it won’t happen on its own. If Scotland is to become a place that encourages and facilitates this step change in our economy then we have to work together to create an environment in which our entrepreneurial leaders, wherever they are, are the heroes of the story. To do so, we’ll have to harness the power of our existing entrepreneurial support networks; banks; investors; advisers – Government and its agencies, including Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise; and a whole host of others with a shared vision of taking Scotland to the next level.

The Scottish Government pledged, as part of its Enterprise and Skills review, to support the entrepreneurial community in creating an environment in which enterprises of scale can flourish, and Entrepreneurial Scotland has been charged with providing more and better coordinated support for businesses to scale up. Collaboration is the key here.

And we are going to have to tackle some pretty big issues. Access to talent is a constant challenge for people who have the ambition to grow their businesses and one that’s unlikely to go away.

We need to develop the talent we already have too. We need to know where our most likely success stories are and provide them with the assistance, the mentoring, the access to finance and the support – technical and moral – that they need to get to the next level. The Saltire Scholarship and Fellowship programmes have a role to play here, as do such initiatives as Adopt an Intern.

It is critical our entrepreneurial leaders also invest in themselves. There’s already a range of support available for entrepreneurs through the likes of SE and HIE, to help them take their organisations to the next level.

Other initiatives such as the GAP Programme, delivered by Strathclyde Business School, and a new programme – Scale Up Scotland – recently launched by Entrepreneurial Scotland with funding from The Hunter Foundation have an important role to play too. It will be vital we coordinate these and the other programmes effectively.

But most of all, we all need the ambition and the belief – that Scotland has the talent, the skills and the ability to create a new generation of scale-up enterprises which will power our economy, create jobs and, yes, wealth.

And we have to start now. Creating an environment where today’s start-ups – led by women and men alike – can grow to become global success stories is the joint responsibility of us all.

Sandy Kennedy is the chief executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland.