Entrepreneurs help push pay rates for women to the highest in region

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There’s no better place in the south east for women to do business and earn more money than Tunbridge Wells, according to a new report.

Women in the town take home more than their counterparts anywhere else in Kent and more than the national average, new figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal.

Average earnings for Tunbridge Wells women were £377.30 per week in 2015, totalling £19,619 per annum.

That is £70 a week more than the Kent average and also higher than the average in the rest of the south east, which stood at £345 per week.

On a UK-wide comparison Tunbridge Wells women earned £32 more per week than the national average, says the ONS which is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and the recognised national statistical institute of the UK.

Emma Cox, who runs the organisation Women in Business West Kent, said the figures reflect the ‘entrepreneurial’ nature of the town.

“Tunbridge Wells is great for people who want to start their own business. There is a lot of opportunity here and more and more women are setting up companies, some of which grow quite large,” she said.

Much of this is down to the support networks in Tunbridge Wells which are absent in other parts of the region.

“There are enough types of networking groups for anyone to benefit, which is especially important as many new businesses depend on referrals.

“Tunbridge Wells has a lot of very creative people, so although there is always an element of competition, there is also a lot of collaboration.”

Mrs Cox said the attractiveness of the town as a place to do business was self-fulfilling as it led to even more successful women choosing to locate here.

“There are lots of women who move down from London having already worked in high-profile jobs and who have the confidence and belief in themselves to set up a company.”

Men working in Tunbridge Wells earn an average of £521 per week, £27,092 per year.

While this is better than the Kent and UK averages, at £514 and £520 per week respectively, it is below the south east average at £552 per week.


Recruitment expert Reece Singh, branch manager of Recruitment Solutions, believes the earning power of women working in Tunbridge Wells reflects a well-qualified female workforce.

“It’s interesting to know that research and evidence from the ONS show women working in Tunbridge Wells earn an average of £377 per week,” he said.

“From our perspective we find the clients and companies we work with seek only to judge candidates and people who work for them on the basis of work experience and ability, never gender.

“The research could be reflecting evidence of gender equality within the local workplace.”

He added: “Working with both expanding companies and growing companies, we have often found that Tunbridge Wells baulks national trends given its forward-thinking approach to business.”

Kelly Wilcox, 37, Creative Director of BakerWilcox, St James’ Park
Kelly set up her graphic design and branding business 11 years ago and has seen a steep rise in turnover ever since she moved to St James’ Park, Tunbridge Wells. Her local clients include Nikwax in Wadhurst.

“We started in Edenbridge but Tunbridge Wells is just more buzzy, a lot more vibrant.

“If you compare Tunbridge Wells with Sevenoaks, women there are more likely to stay at home and not set up businesses. Tonbridge is more of a commuter town where people disappear up to London.

“You feel you want to stay in Tunbridge Wells. Women here are more likely to set up their own classes and all the mums I know have a good network.

“It is more diverse here, so if you wanted to open a shop you would probably choose Camden Road because it would be cheaper than in the town centre.

“I went to school in Tunbridge Wells and went to London for college. The schools are brilliant here and house prices are good.

“We pick up enough business locally to stay rather than going up to London. There are lots of businesses here without us needing to go to London.”

Laura Parker, 35, established Freckles and Fire 18 months ago
She has just launched her new creative workshop in the basement of the Fine Grind coffee bar in the High Street.

It is aimed at parents and children as young as five and Laura hosts creative workshops, kids clubs and parties.

“Tunbridge Wells is a really hard nut to crack. But once you’ve cracked it, it’s brilliant. I have a really loyal following and everybody chats here, which is really good if you are starting up. It’s not like London where people only chat about you if you have a bad reputation.

“The reason women are doing well here is because it is a female dominated town, certainly during the week. I have always been in media and marketing and it has given me my identity back. And because of that it’s made me a better mum.”

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