• New programme aims to match 180 mentors and mentees
• 25% of high growth businesses in the UK are founded by women
• Businesses of all sectors and sizes are encouraged to join the scheme

Northern Powerhouse Partner, Santander UK, has  launched its largest ever programme to bolster its support for businesswomen across the UK – the ‘Women Business Leaders’ mentoring programme.

Designed to support women in business across the UK, the mentoring programme pairs budding female entrepreneurs with established business leaders across all sectors, business sizes and geographies. The bank is calling on all businesswomen who feel they would benefit from mentoring – as well as both male and female business owners who think they can add value by becoming a mentor – to sign up quickly to the programme as spaces will fill up fast.

Following a successful smaller scale programme in 2019, this year the scale and ambition is even greater as the bank expects to pair 90 mentors with 90 female entrepreneurs and SME owners.

Recent data revealed that the proportion of investment in female-founded businesses declined to just nine per cent in 2019 – a drop from 15% four years earlier in 2015. Despite this, approximately 25% of high growth companies in the UK have a female founder. A separate report by Women Ahead and Moving Ahead, showed “effective mentoring is not only turning the gender dial, but is paving the way for a more inclusive, connected and diverse workforce and society”.

Louise Robinson, Head of Breakthrough, Santander said:
“There has been some headway on breaking the barriers for women in business, but there is still a long way to go before we see gender parity. It’s important that these budding female entrepreneurs have access to regular guidance from business professionals who have tried and tested methods of running an enterprise.”

Liz Dimmock, Founder and CEO, Women Ahead said:
“Women Ahead is delighted to be partnering with Santander to deliver this programme. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand just how exciting, yet also challenging it can be. It’s a massive yet rewarding step and one I am grateful to have made and never regretted. I’ve personally benefitted from mentoring at all stages; from start up to now in year six – and it was in fact a mentor that supported and challenged me to make this very step –to found Women Ahead, my social impact organisation six years ago. Mentoring enabled me to make this leap, embrace the (many!) challenges, and to always process and learn from the setbacks and acknowledge successes along the way.”

The programme will cover a wide range of challenges faced by SMEs and entrepreneurs – from finding the right work/life balance, to entering new growth phases and even exporting products or services internationally. As part of the initiative Santander UK will provide each of the partnerships with tailored business support, through facilitated peer to peer sessions in response to the participants requests.

Prospective mentors and mentees can apply online and the deadline for applications is close of business on Friday 31 January 2020. The programme itself will start in March, once the mentors and mentees have been matched, and will run throughout the year. More information can be found here.