AN entrepreneur who has just collected an MBE for the promotion of women in business has declared there continues to be major barriers preventing females from making their mark in the world of commerce in Scotland.

Lynne Kennedy, founder of the Business Women Scotland (BWS) publishing and events network, said difficulty accessing finance is among the most significant factors blocking the creation and growth of female-led businesses in Scotland.

Ms Kennedy, an interior design graduate who began her career as a set designer for the BBC and STV, also said women are often held back by low levels of confidence and “impostor’s syndrome”. That leads to a sense they are not quite good enough to succeed, she noted, despite their qualifications and abilities.

Ms Kennedy said: “As we have discussed at many of our meetings, it is easy to set up a business, but the hardest part is to grow your business. It is the two to three year point where people think it is a lot of hard work and they can’t get access to finance, especially if you are female. That’s what tends to stop people doing what they are doing, and maybe seek employment.”

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Ms Kennedy launched the BWS magazine in the depths of the financial crisis, an era which generated a rise in female-owned businesses on the back of widespread redundancies. Now, through the wider BWS network, she is working to help women break down the barriers they face growing businesses today, partly through a series of networking events it is holding around Scotland this year.

BWS will hold the first in a series of roadshows in major Scottish cities at the Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh on February 27, where delegates will hear speeches from a host of successful female business owners. The events will also give women a forum to share experiences and present to a panel of entrepreneurs, who will provide feedback on their ideas and contacts.

The roadshow forms part of the BWS programmed aimed at helping women grow businesses, on which it is working alongside Royal Bank of Scotland and the Scottish Government. It comes as research shows female-owned businesses could represent an economic opportunity worth £7.6 billion which is waiting to be unlocked.

One of the issues to be explored will be how women can go about accessing finance for business growth, whether through banks, family members, mortgaging or “high-credit borrowing”.

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Ms Kennedy, who is an adviser to the Scottish Government, said: “Access to finance is still a stumbling block for many people, and it is crucial for women seeking to their business. The stats they have [show there is] a £7.6bn economic opportunity represented by female-owned businesses. Banks, and other financial companies, need to look at business lending regardless of gender. The lending and borrowing is actually less for female-owned businesses.”

Asked why this was the case, Ms Kennedy said the trend was not down to one specific factor.

She speculated it can be “age group led”, with some women denied finance because they may be at an age when they could be planning to have children. She also noted that women are “more risk averse”.

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Asked to highlight other challenges faced by women in business, Ms Kennedy raised the issue of self-confidence. “I think a lot of females still have the impostor’s syndrome [and feelings they] are not good enough. You can have one of the best degrees in the world, but you have got to have the confidence to push yourself forward.

“Confidence is key for women no matter what stage they are in business. I would say that is one of the issues holding women back. Women returners are especially low in confidence.”

Ms Kennedy moved into publishing after working on the Home Show at STV, which led her to become the editor of Homes & Interiors Scotland magazine. After 10 years in that role she became self-employed 14 years ago, going on to launch BWS during the financial crisis.