The boss of a public relations firm has been made one of the UK's first Women's Enterprise Ambassadors.

Gillian Gibbons, who runs Wychwood Communications based at Waterperry, will be one of a Government-backed network across the country who will be on hand to support and encourage women to start their own businesses.

Currently just 15 per cent of businesses owners in the South East are female, and the aim is to boost that figure as much as possible. The South East Economic Development Agency (Seeda), which is running the scheme, wants to see 10,000 new women-owned businesses by 2010.

Ms Gibbons, 42, said: "I believe that women have a huge amount to offer but that many are intimidated by the thought of what is entailed in setting up their own business.

"My role as ambassador will be to provide support and guidance, as well as to inspire women in Oxford to take the first step to realise their dreams.

"I can identify with some of the issues faced by women considering going into business, and I look forward to sharing my experience and providing support to aspiring local businesswomen."

Pam Alexander, chief executive of Seeda and co-chairman of the National Women's Enterprise Taskforce, said: "Encouraging greater levels of entrepreneurship among women is a Government priority."