Media release: Skills Alliance programme delivers specialist support to Scottish businesswomen


WOMEN’S Enterprise Scotland has partnered with First Sentier Investors to deliver a pilot business guidance programme for businesswomen in Scotland.

The six-month Skills Alliance programme is designed to provide tailored support for a cohort of women running businesses in Scotland, matching these women with experienced business guides from First Sentier Investors so that they can benefit from ongoing support.

Businesswomen who signed up to the Women’s Business Centre digital platform were eligible to apply and a cohort of 13 have been selected, based throughout Scotland and running a wide variety of businesses.

Each woman has been matched with a business guide from global asset management firm First Sentier, who will help them with a specific challenge or opportunity in their business, ranging from strategy and accessing finance to marketing, leadership and resilience. The programme will run until the summer.

Lynne Cadenhead, chair of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, said: “Women face specific challenges when it comes to starting and growing a business, such as gaining credibility, accessing finance, finding appropriate business networks and combining business and caring commitments.

“Less than 16 per cent of SMEs in Scotland are women-owned employer businesses (1) and shockingly, start-ups with all female founder teams get less than one per cent of available capital compared with 89 per cent invested in all-male founders (2).

“We simply must tackle the gender gap in enterprise and help women to unlock their economic potential. This pilot programme with First Sentier Investors is an important step forward and we hope it will be expanded further over time.”

Kerry McCormack, global head of IT at First Sentier Investors, commented: “We are immensely proud to be partnering with Women’s Enterprise Scotland in our first-ever programme of skills matching with female entrepreneurs.

“We are increasingly aware of how hard it is to start and grow a business as a woman, especially in these challenging economic times.

“It means a lot to us that we can pay forward our own knowledge in specialist areas of business and help to be part of the collective success of this project. We have been so impressed with the calibre of the businesswomen selected for this pilot and look forward to what they go on to achieve in the future.”

Karen Knowles (pictured), owner of Bon Accord soft drinks, is one of the cohort of businesswomen selected to take part in the pilot Skills Alliance programme.

She commented: “I was delighted to be selected for the Skills Alliance pilot programme. The past 12 months have been challenging – Covid has had a massive impact on my business and having a mentor from First Sentier through the Women’s Enterprise programme has been invaluable experience, allowing me to implement a strategic growth plan.

“This, coupled with the networking opportunities with other female-led businesses, has given me the support and confidence to achieve business goals.”

Lynne Cadenhead concluded: “Our Skills Alliance programme is designed to help tackle the gender gap in enterprise and support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, which covers gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

“We are delighted to working with First Sentier Investors on this pilot programme and look forward to seeing how the participants and their businesses benefit from the expert business support provided.”

For further information about Women’s Enterprise Scotland, contact Gaynor Simpson on 07790 104073 and at

For further information about First Sentier Investors, contact

 Notes for editors:

  • Women’s Enterprise Scotland was established in 2011 as a research-led, not-for-profit Community Interest Company which champions women-led and women-owned businesses.
  • WES advocates the need for gender-specific support in enterprise as the way to unlock women’s economic potential, enabling innovation and productivity to thrive.
  • In 2020, WES launched the Women’s Business Centre, the first freely accessible digital platform of its kind which supports women as they start and grow their own businesses.
  • Women owned businesses contribute £8.8bn GVA to the Scottish economy, an increase of 76% from £5bn GVA in 2012 (3). As a sector, women-owned businesses contribute more GVA than Sustainable Tourism (£3.9bn), Food & Drink (£4.1bn) and Creative Industries (£4.4bn) (4).
  • First Sentier Investors manages US$177 billion in assets (as at 31 December 2020) on behalf of institutional investors, pension funds, wholesale distributors, investment platforms, financial advisers and their clients worldwide.
  • The firm operates as a standalone global investment management business with offices across Europe, the Americas, and Asia Pacific. First Sentier Investors’ expertise spans a range of asset classes and specialist investment sectors focused on delivering sustainable investment success based on responsible investment principles.

(1) Small Business Survey Scotland 2018

(2) British Business Bank 2019

(3) Women in Enterprise: The Economic Case, FSB 2018

(4) Scottish Government Growth Sector Briefings, June 2020

Photo: Karen Knowles,  owner of Bon Accord soft drinks

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