Editor's note: this is a guest post from Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls, a UK-based non-profit that trains women in IT skills and helps companies to develop more female‑friendly recruitment policies. Today is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.

Looking back on 2020 so far, it has become clear that the economic fallout from COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on women. According to a recent report by Citi Bank, of the 44 million expected global redundancies, 31 million are women. 

Meanwhile, research from The Centre of Economic Performance has found that women are more likely to lose their jobs than men in the COVID-19 crisis, as sectors where women compose a majority of the workforce face devastation.

There is an urgency for women to reskill in technology due to COVID-19, and take advantage of increased job opportunities in the digital space.

Whilst COVID-19 has had an adverse impact on women, the crisis has also acted as a catalyst for positive change, leading more women to rethink their careers and set up their own businesses. It’s estimated one in four women are setting up their own business as a result of the pandemic, according to AllBright. The same report found that 61 percent of women said they were planning a career change, as a result of the pandemic. 

Entrepreneurship is an empowering experience that can benefit all levels of society. On an individual level, it empowers women to have flexibility in their schedule, control over their future and allows them to follow their passion. At a social level, it brings diversity to the industry, products and services. And, on a national level, it is the fuel which powers the economy. 

As more women turn to entrepreneurship, it’s fundamental that governments and organisations tackle the diversity gender gap in the business and technology industry. It’s been well documented that women face a number of hurdles, which often stop them from pursuing starting-up their own business. 

Female-founded new businesses get 1p for every £1 of venture capital investment, research commissioned by the Chancellor shows. Meanwhile a review by the UK Government found that key challenges include a shortage of funding, psychological barriers and bias, fear of failure, lack of networks and mentors, as well as juggling childcare. 

It’s essential that the right tools and support are in place to provide women setting up their own companies with the skills and confidence they need to run their business. If we can get this right, female-led startups have the power to add an additional £250 billion to the UK economy, according to The Alison Rose Review

Upskilling women for future growth

Lockdown has accelerated digital transformation. Almost every business had to shift being online, increasing their digital component. Whether that was a website for an independent store or building in a back-end system to support a company’s finances and supply chain. 

Technology upskilling can provide women with the skills they need to run their own business, as well as helping close the gender skills gap. The World Economic Forum revealed earlier this year that by 2022, 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change. The demand for technology skills continues to surge, yet women still remain underrepresented, making up only 17% of the industry. 

With the shift to remote learning, it's now becoming much easier and more accessible to learn new skills. For instance, at Code First Girls we became a fully remote learning social enterprise within the first two weeks of lockdown. Now, all of our courses are available online and can be fit around a full-time job or your studies.  

There has also been a mammoth uptake in interest in coding from women. We alone saw on an unprecedented growth, by 800 percent, in registrations for our virtual classes during lockdown. The pandemic has highlighted the value of coding to take advantage of the increasing job opportunities. Women are now looking to upskill their technical skills to help prepare them to break into the technology scene. 

Empowering the female entrepreneurs

It’s estimated that 90% of women in the UK experience imposter syndrome at work, demonstrating the importance of actively investing in developing the female community network and mentorship programmes to build confidence and facilitate career paths.

This can be one of the reasons why female entrepreneurs don’t pursue specific endeavours when trying to build their business. On top of that, it can affect how they behave in certain situations, resulting in missed opportunities and hindered business growth. 

By empowering women with the tools and resources they need to start their own business, we have a chance to build back better. Rebuilding is a once in a generation chance to tackle the gender gap in the technology and entrepreneurship industry, in addition to overcoming imposter syndrome. If we get it right, we have the opportunity to add billions to the UK economy, as well as build a diverse and inclusive world for women to thrive.

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