Women in the UK will be given help to start and grow companies as part of a new initiative from Microsoft.
The technology business has announced it will expand its female-focused Cloud Accelerator Program to an additional eight countries, including the UK, in a bid to inspire more women to launch their own firms and address the gender gap in the start-up sector.
Those enrolled in the programme will be given access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform – including artificial intelligence technology – mentorship, networking opportunities and other resources.
The multi-million-dollar, multi-year investment aims to offer cloud technology to more than 1,000 women-led technology companies over the investment period, so they can start and scale their own business, and play their part in creating healthy economies.
One-in-eight working women wants to start her own business, according to research from FreeAgent and OnePol, but the Government has found that just one-in-five small and medium-sized companies is run by a woman, despite estimates that boosting female entrepreneurship could add £250 billion to the economy. Currently, just nine per cent of the funding funnelled into UK start-ups goes to women-run businesses, the Entrepreneurs Network revealed.
Microsoft has teamed up with Women in Cloud, a community-led initiative that helps women grow their companies by using cloud technology, and IdeaGen to roll-out its six-month programme to the UK, France, Germany, Canada, India, Kenya, South Africa and the UAE. There will also be new initiatives in New York and Chicago in the US, joining those currently run in Seattle.
Through partnerships with groups such as Backstage Capital, Black and Brown Founders, The Riveter, and WTIA’s Founder Cohort Program, Microsoft’s Cloud Accelerator Programs have so far helped 30 female-owned companies – such as Stylyze, Meylah, Genneve Health and Automaton – to grow.