Libraries should offer private space to women who want to start businesses, MPs report says

Jamie Johnson
Isabel Oswell is head of Business Audience at the British library, whose Business and IP centre gave face-to-face support to over 5,000 people last year - Rii Schroer

Libraries should offer private spaces to women who want to start businesses, a new report by MPs says.

In a bid to boost female entrepreneurship in post-brexit Britain, the group say that libraries should be “used more widely across the UK to provide the home of business hubs including specific support for women owned businesses."

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Women and Enterprise says that “there is a national decline in the traditional use of libraries”, but the “unique reach and accessibility” of the buildings can attract a more diverse audience and host business support services.

The hubs could reflect those set up in the United States after the Women’s Business Ownership Act was signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988. More than 100 centres for female entrepreneurship have been establised across the country which provide free workshops, training, advice and mentoring to female founders, supported by the government.

The wide-ranging report is the first of its kind from the group, led by Craig Tracey, Conservative MP for North Warwickshire and focuses on what the government and private companies can do to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in Britain.

Craig Tracey MP said: 'As we prepare to leave the European Union we should be thinking of how we can encourage more women to grow their businesses and export' Credit: Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament

A comprehensive government-commissioned review into the problems faced by female entrepreneurs found that if women were creating businesses and scaling up at the same rate as men, the boost to the UK economy would be worth £250 billion over the next ten years.

“We believe it is the joint duty of Government, financial institutions and the private sector to support female entrepreneurs to ensure that the UK economy takes full advantage of this untapped opportunity,” the APPG report says. 

“Post-Brexit this could be critical in both supporting and enhancing the UKs future growth potential.”

The British Library have already launched a flagship scheme for entrepreneurs which includes a dedicated space on site where startup founders can access support through workshops, mentoring and events.

Last year, their Business IP Centre gave face-to-face support to over 5,000 people, of which 62% were women. In addition, their national network of 11 Centres supported over 18,500 people, of which 59% were women.

Jessica Rose, who founded the London Jewellery School attended a course at the British Library and said: “It was really helpful for the simple things, like how to register a company, picking your company name, setting up a bank account. All these basic things that everyone needs to know when they are starting a business, but unless you have somewhere to go, it’s really difficult.

Ms Rose added that another benefit of the community hub is the chance to network, saying: “It’s amazing to watch their businesses grow alongside yours and there aren’t many places where you can find that. The centre is such an amazing resource and we’re lucky to have that.”

Craig Tracey MP said in the report: “The quality and diversity of the UK’s female entrepreneurs is incredible and is something that the UK should be proud of. But there should be more of them. As we prepare to leave the European Union we should be thinking of how we can encourage more women to grow their businesses and export.”