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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 19:39 GMT
Women on course for success
Young child
Better creche facilities are helping women back to work
By Rob Pittam of BBC Two's Working Lunch

International Women's Day, marked on Thursday, aims to highlight and promote ther role of women in the workplace around the world.

But in the UK, women have already made great strides as entrepreneurs, helped by a growing network of training organisations geared to their needs.

The courses are bringing women into the mainstream of the economy

Viv Harley
Business Network founder
Business Network, based at Redditch in Worcestershire, started in 1986 as a charity helping women back into work.

It has gradually developed and now has a recruitment arm and offers corporate training. It also teaches computer skills to 450 people a week, who are funded either by their employers or the local college.

The courses for women cover self-employment, financial management and marketing and can last for up 12 months.

No pressure

"The benefit of the training is that it allows women to take their time in developing their confidence as well as exploring their own business idea," says Business Network founder Viv Harley.

"There is no pressure - we consider it a success if anyone gets something out of the course, even if they don't go on to set up their own business."

It's giving women the chance to compete on a level playing field with other businesses

Viv Harley
The courses also take into account the needs of women with children. They run for a couple of days a week, finish by 2.30pm and take a break during school holidays. Creche facilities are available at a nearby gym.

Brenda Killigrew studied on a business owners course in 1997. A former dressmarker, she now runs La Femme, a bridal lingerie shop just outside Redditch. She also trains women in fashion and textiles.

"I set up the business and did the course at the same time, so was able to apply it practically rather than working on a fictitious business," she says.

Improved childcare

Karyn Maddison saw a gap in childcare provision in the Redditch area, so set up Sneakers Childcare six years ago. She honed her marketing technique at Business Network.

"There were no childcare services available so it was a niche in the system but we had to make people aware of it," she explains. Redditch has a good track record of promoting entrepreneurship among women.

The Redditch Women's Enterprise Development Agency, REWEDA, is the oldest such body in the UK, having been running for more than a decade.

Originally part of the council, it is now a company run by women who have started their own businesses.

It offers training and advice and can also help with loans.


There is an annual gala dinner at which the Redditch Businesswoman of the Year is announced - Karyn Maddison is the current title-holder.

Redditch also has a businesswomen's club, which meets several times a year.

Viv Harley believes women have much to offer - bringing up childen can help develop financial, management and self-management skills.

"The courses are bringing women into the mainstream of the economy. Fifty-one per cent of the population are women and it's giving them a chance to compete on an equal playing field with other businesses," she says.

"I think every town should have an environment where women returners can develop before going back into the workplace, in whatever capacity."

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Europe's top women
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08 Feb 01 | Business
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