Tory MEPs today failed to support a report calling for Europe's governments to do more to promote female entrepreneurship.
The report calls on EU countries to support female labour market participation by implementing work-life balance policies; use EU funds to guarantee affordable quality care for children and older people; facilitate and simplify access to finance; promote an entrepreneurial culture in education and training; and encourage more women to choose careers in scientific, finance and high-growth, profitable sectors.
Across Europe, only 31 per cent of entrepreneurs are women. The hurdles they face include a lack of access to funding and bank loans; unbalanced sharing of family responsibilities; not enough childcare facilities; and stereotypes about leadership qualities.
Mary Honeyball MEP, Labour's European Parliament spokesperson on women's rights and gender equality, said:
"The Tories have once again shown their true colours when it comes to equality. They have failed to support today's report that calls for EU action to encourage female entrepreneurship - indeed they appear not to have any position or policies on this subject at all.
"Boosting female entrepreneurship could add £60 billion to the UK economy by 2030, particularly in the new technologies, including green technology, digital environments and IT.
"In the economy of the future, for Britain to maintain its position as one of the world's biggest economies, it will be even more vital to ensure no one is excluded, yet at present men are twice as likely as women to start a business in the UK.
"Just 18 per cent of British SMEs are led by women. Women make up just 20 per cent of tech founders, and only four per cent of software engineers. There are set to be a million vacancies in the sector by 2020 - and it is in these growth sectors like tech, where women entrepreneurs are really underrepresented, that we need to see the greatest change.
"We also need action at all levels to improve the quality of opportunities, not just more jobs but better jobs, and to close the gender pay gap, which sees men in full-time work earn 14 per cent more than women."