UK business funder Virgin StartUp has announced plans to help level the playing field for women and men spearheading early stage businesses.

In practical terms it means achieving a 50|50 funding target for women and men by the end of next year, and over and above the money side of things, offering support including online masterclass courses to help parents juggling childcare commitments learn the skills they need to grow their businesses.

“The barriers have been well documented. It’s now time to make a promise that will deliver a positive change for women entrepreneurs and the British economy as a whole. We are committed to delivering on our 50/50 gender pledge and have worked with a number of external advisors to introduce a raft of women-focused initiatives that will address the barriers women face when starting up. I am really excited to be part of an organisation that truly wants to make a positive difference,” said Linda Grant, Chairwoman of Virgin StartUp.