Award-winning company boss says Peterborough is missing out as woman are put off business

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An award-winning boss says more urgently needs to be done to open the way for Peterborough women to take a greater role in business.

Joanne Bass, founder and chief executive of XL Displays, in Manasty Road, Orton Southgate, fears the city is losing out because many women are put off from climbing the career ladder or setting up their own business.

Joanne Bass, founder and chief executive of XL Displays.

Joanne Bass, founder and chief executive of XL Displays.

Joanne, who set up exhibition stands maker XL Displays eight years ago after a dispute with her former boss over child care, said: “The Peterborough economy is losing out because the city is not doing enough to attract women into business.

“We are missing out on an awful lot and it is vital this is tackled.”

XL Displays, which has a turnover in excess of £4 million, has 47 staff with a 70/30 make up in favour of women.

She said: “We didn’t set out for it to be this way. I just think women are often more comfortable applying to a female boss for a job.

Joanne Bass with some of the staff at XL Displays.

Joanne Bass with some of the staff at XL Displays.

“I found out early on that it is very difficult for a woman to be taken seriously.

“So I made it part of the ethos of XL Displays to empower women. There is no business really supporting women coming back into the workplace so we looked at doing things like supporting sports days, parents evenings, time off for child sickness.

"It’s just being accommodating but it does have to work for the business too - it’s a relationship.

She added: “For me it is about empowering women. Women can have it all. You can have a career, you can be a mum, you can run a house.”

It is an issue currently occupying the minds of politicians and business nationally.

The Government has just launched a review into the barriers faced by women in business after new figures revealed only one third of UK entrepreneurs are women.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is running its own campaign to axe the barriers faced by women in business.

Joanne said it must also be a matter for business organisations in Peterborough.

She said: “It is an issue that has to be more at forefront of plans for the future of Peterborough, for Opportunity Peterborough (OP) and other organisations that can have an impact on this and do more about it.

She added: “We probably need the creation of a network of woman leaders who can drive the issue forward. We could see the development of support programmes through OP around web design, business coaching and leadership to help build that confidence.”

Alison Rose, head of commercial and private banking at the RBS bank, who is heading the Government review, said: “If we want to strengthen the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business, then no one can be left behind.”

FSB chair Mike Cherry said: “Some 2.7 million women in the UK want to start a business but have been put off by persistent barriers.

"If we were to harness the still largely untapped potential of women entrepreneurship, it could lead to additional jobs, economic growth and a more diverse and representative small business community.”