WOMEN'S Enterprise Scotland, the community interest company that promotes women-led businesses, is marking International Women’s Day today with the launch of a microfinance fund to support small start-up enterprises.

The pilot scheme, which will allow women to access small test trading grants of up of £250, was officially launched at the ‘Empowering Women through Education, Employment and Enterprise’ event at Glasgow’s City Chambers today.

Just over 20 per cent of Scottish small and medium businesses are majority owned by women businesses, contributing more than £5 billion towards the Scottish economy

“Our research consistently shows that the lack of access to finance is a persistent barrier which limits women’s ability to start or expand their businesses and to fully participate in economic, social, and political life,” said Margaret Gibson, chief executive of Women’s Enterprise Scotland.

“This in turn holds back women, their families, communities and entire economies. Our microfinance fund will provide support to women who are facing particular economic challenges and provide them with small test trading grants to explore the viability of their new business idea.”

Application details and funding criteria will be announced in due course.

If rates of women-led businesses equalled that of men, the contribution to Scotland’s output would increase to £13bn, the organisation said.