The importance of empowering women in business

I have worked in male dominant environments. I have been subject to the gender pay gap, which was so obvious to the point of a former colleague explicitly telling me that I was earning a lot less than my male counterpart. That was my second job.

In my first job two years earlier, my male boss told me “you can’t buy this type of work experience. You should be proud of yourself, so there’s no need for me to increase your pay.” I was young and thought that was just the way of things. This set my level of confidence – I must work hard and never ask for a pay rise.

That was ten years ago. I was genuinely naive enough to believe things had changed in 2020. Yet I recently met a male MD who shared his ambitions to skyrocket his empire. He told me about a young female graduate who’s “showing a lot of promise.”

I kid you not, this promising graduate is not being paid because she’s “not quite good enough yet.”

Attitudes towards women in SME sectors need to change

It’s no wonder that women only make up a third of entrepreneurs in the UK. I believe it’s a collective lack of confidence, a residual side-effect of the millennia of inequality and exploitation, that holds the UK’s women back from taking the leap in to entrepreneurship.

In 2018, the government commissioned the Rose Review into female entrepreneurship, which was published in 2019:

  • Just 6% of women in the UK run their own business
  • Male-led SMEs are five times more likely to scale up to £1m
  • Women start businesses with 53% less capital on average than men, and are less aware of funding options – and less likely to take on debt
  • Less than 1% of all UK venture funding is awarded to all-female teams
  • All-male founder teams are awarded 89p of every £1 of venture capital funding awarded in the UK
  • 8% of women surveyed said they plan to start their own business, compared to 14% of men

There are a million more statistics that paint a similar picture.

This is exactly the reason Fempowered Collective has been born. Our mission is to spark changing attitudes, build confidence and empower women to collaborate, elevate and change these statistics.

Three steps to elevate our female friends in business

Step 1: Show up, speak up and represent

Networking offers the best opportunity to show up – but most SME networking groups also offer the chance to run workshops, speak at events and present. The more female entrepreneurs and experts are seen and heard at ‘grass roots’ business events, the more we can build confidence in our personal ability and collective confidence in the power of female entrepreneurship.

If you are nervous about putting yourself in the spotlight, encourage other women to go for it and offer them your time to help fine-tune their speech or presentation. Not only will this help our peers, but it may just give you the confidence to go for it yourself too.

Step 2: Talk and collaborate

Being self-employed can be isolating, unless we make the effort to reach out and check-in with our fellow business owners. At every opportunity, we should be talking to and offering advice to each other. Run ideas by each other and offer a skills swap session.

Make a list of three fellow business owners you have met in the past. Drop them an email or LinkedIn message to say hello and ask if they’d like a zoom coffee together to catch up and talk about business! Where is the rule book to say we can only do this as part of a formal networking group?

Step 3: Be open and talk about your business finances

As the statistic above reports, women are less likely to seek financial support, perhaps because we are less likely to feel confident taking on debt. We perhaps lack the confidence in our business and ability to ask for help. But just think about the stronger position your business would be in with the right, and rightful, funding?

This is where we need to be open in talking about our business finances. You may be missing out on funding that’s available to you. If you’ve received financial support, don’t be ashamed to talk about it – you may just help a fellow entrepreneur get vital funds.

The government still has options available to help from the damaging effects of COVID-19. Take a look at the financial support pages:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19#support-for-small-and-medium-sized-businesses

Fempowered Collective will soon be launching a series of business and marketing courses, as well as a new exciting collaborative networking group to bring together women in business. Register your interest below and be first to know about our updates:

I’m interested!