Asian Women of Achievement Awards

Wednesday 19th May 2010

Theresa May's Speech

It's a tremendous pleasure to be able to be here at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards once again. And I have to say that each year the awards get stronger, the scope gets greater and I have to say I think they get a little more glamorous every year too.

It is great to be here and these awards do something very special because they recognise the achievement of Asian women throughout the UK and across all walks of life. And I'd like to thank the sponsors of the awards, particularly Lloyds Banking Group who have been the headline sponsors for a number of years now. Because that sponsorship of course is very important for these awards to maintain them year on year.

As I say the breadth of these awards just shows the tremendous, immense contribution that Asian women are making across all aspects of our life across the UK. As well as thanking the sponsors, I also just like to say my personal word of thanks to Pinky Lilani who I believe is a truly inspirational woman in everything she does. If I may say you are a true ambassador for Asian women. Thank you for all that you do.

I say that the breadth of these awards shows contribution that Asian women are making to our life here in the UK. I think that nowhere is that more apparent than in this entrepreneur of the year award. All of these women have shown the drive, the tenacity, the dedication to make their dreams come true.

They are all role models. Although role models are not just for women and for gender equality. Role models I believe are for British economic competitiveness, entrepreneurship and British prosperity. And if you remember that behind each of these women is thousands of Asian business women up and down the UK. Now, I think we need more women entrepreneurs. We need more women entrepreneurs not just because it's right but actually we need to make the use of the talent that women have and to tap into the potential that women have. That's important not just for them but it's particularly important today when we're pulling out of what has been a recession of unprecedented proportions.

And if you just think about this ladies and gentlemen, that if we women were setting up businesses at the same rate as men we'd have 150,000 more businesses in the UK. If women in the UK were setting up businesses in the same rate as women do in the United States, we'd have 600,000 more businesses in the UK and contribute something like 42 billion pounds per year in the British economy. So, I say to those women entrepreneurs out there, we need you, we need your talent, we need your ideas, we need your innovations. The nominees today have shown it can be done, they show that with dedication you can go out there and you can make your dream come true.

And I stand here as the new Home Secretary but also Minister for Women and Equality. So this year I am able to say that I am actually intending to put into practice some of the things I'm saying because I believe passionately in encouraging women and encouraging women in the workplace and encouraging women to set up their own businesses. And so what I would want to be doing is to make sure that women have those opportunities and working life can work around women and enable them to use their talent to their advantage but also to the advantage of the UK as a whole.

And so I am delighted to be presenting this award tonight.