By Scott Wright

WOMEN business owners are facing a “pensions time bomb” as a chronic capital crunch and dearth of tailored support facing female-led enterprises shows no sign of easing.

Sixty per cent of women business leaders in Scotland are not paying into a pension and 40% of that number have no pension provision at all, according to survey by Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES).

The survey, which was the first of its kind to be carried out by WES, found the lack of pension provision was the most acute for women operating as sole traders. Nearly half (46%) of female sole traders had no provision for a pension at all, higher than the 35% of the whole adult population who say they do not have a pension, WES found. Meanwhile, 53% of the 196 respondents pay themselves a salary of £15,000 a year or less; 12 per cent pay themselves £30,000 or less.

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WES found that, while 95% of those surveyed wanted to grow their business, 48% said access to finance was a challenge. Nearly two-thirds (65%) said say have used savings to support their business, which may be limiting their ability to save.

WES said its survey hammers home why “needs-based support” is required for women looking to grow companies in Scotland. And it repeated its call for a national women’s business centre, similar to those established in the US and Canada, to be set up to deal directly with the challenges facing female-led businesses in Scotland.

Carolyn Currie, chief executive of WES, said while the survey findings were not surprising, given the documented struggles female business owners face in raising capital, the results were still “stark”.

Asked what needed to be done to challenge the situation, Ms Currie said: “Our research has consistently shown over the years that women want to grow their businesses, but struggle to access the resources they need to do that. Putting in place needs-based support, as you would with any other sector of the economy, is the standard piece.”

Ms Currie said the Women in Enterprise action group chaired by Scottish Government minister Jamie Hepburn is looking into establishing a national women’s business centre by studying models across the Atlantic, which provide physical spaces for women to access support and resources. She said: “For women entrepreneurs, the ability to be able to go somewhere that understands you, your business aims and to be able to access that needs-based support is crucial.”

Ms Currie noted: “There’s no shortage of ambition amongst Scotland’s women business owners but access to finance continues to be an issue. This lack of access to capital could potentially be hampering both business growth and the ability of women business owners to pay into a pension, creating a time bomb of pensions poverty which needs urgently addressed.”