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.
Charlotte Yarkoni, Corporate Vice-President of Cloud and AI at Microsoft, said: “As a woman and a leader at Microsoft, I’m proud of our initiatives, many of which have been established and are supported by women leaders within our organisation. I am encouraged by our continued commitment to providing inspiration and mentorship for both women in tech and those just starting to develop interest in the industry.
“While there remains much to do, we at Microsoft believe that we will only be able to address our toughest technology challenges when we embrace diverse perspectives. To build this diversity, it’s critical to have a varied partner ecosystem and one that actively supports women entrepreneurs.”
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.