Unleashing Potential: Empowering Women in the North of England for Economic Prosperity - Sarah Hart

08th Mar 2024

The aim of International Women’s Day is to inspire inclusion and champion a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, where difference is valued and celebrated. What stands out is how closely this international ambition chimes with the concentration by Metro Mayors to champion a new, more inclusive economic dynamism.

In the spirit of International Women's Day, it's essential to shine a spotlight on the remarkable contributions of women in the North of England to the region's economy and their untapped potential to fuel even greater growth and innovation. Policy is increasingly recognising the power of the untapped potential locked away in underrepresented groups. The UN’s Women’s Count estimates that in the UK, we are losing out on £47bn in pre-tax profits due to a lack of women in leadership roles.

Unlocking this potential in women and other groups is central to RTC’s mission and purpose. This is why we place so much emphasis on supporting STEM skills in young people, especially girls and young women. It’s astounding to think that the rate of boys ranking STEM subjects as their best is still almost double that of girls. In an economy crying out for talent, addressing this imbalance is vital. By empowering women with STEM skills and confidence from a young age, we're laying the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive workforce that can fuel innovation and competitiveness in key industries.

Across the North and beyond, women are leading businesses, driving entrepreneurship, and making significant strides in various industries. However, they continue to face unique challenges that hinder their full participation and economic impact.

Although there has been undoubted progress over the past few decades, the economic statistics continue to paint a picture of lost opportunity. There is a stark contrast between the number of women working part-time at 24%, the rate of men. This disparity is exacerbated by structural issues such as the cost of care and established stereotypes steering more women to undertake caring responsibilities. In an economy starved of talent and with almost 1 million vacancies, unlocking capacity from the 1.5 million economically inactive women held back because they are looking after family or their home would provide a much-needed boost.

There is also significant progress required on the nature of employment for women with concentrations in what could be considered lower-paid sectors such as health and social work. Just imagine the injection to GDP that addressing the 8.3% gender pay gap would have. Fewer women start businesses than men, and only 19% of small businesses are women-led. Childcare costs pose a significant challenge for women who aspire to start or grow their businesses. The lack of affordable and accessible childcare options often forces women to juggle caregiving responsibilities with their entrepreneurial pursuits, creating barriers to their professional advancement and success.

To build on the momentum generated, it's essential that we keep going and champion progressive policy and practices, such as:

  • Further addressing the childcare costs that discourage work,
  • Building on the progress made since the pandemic to providing more flexible workplaces,
  • Providing extra flexibilities for those caring for family whilst in work,
  • Supporting women’s enterprise and leadership,
  • and doubling down on inspiring and enabling more women to embark on careers in STEM industries need to be a focus for policy.

Progress is undoubtedly being made, but much more is required. I hope that the devolution of powers to localities and the intentions of Metro Mayors to drive inclusive and person-centred growth will address the structural imbalances and finally break the glass ceiling that so many have been held below.

This International Women’s Day, let's celebrate the resilience, creativity, and ingenuity of women in the North of England. Together, we can harness the full potential of women's entrepreneurship and leadership to drive economic growth, foster innovation, and build a brighter future for all.


SN06838.pdf (

Women Count in 2020 | UN Women Data Hub

Return to list