I wrote ‘Female Entrepreneurs – The Secrets of Their Success’ with co-author John Smythe, to encourage the Government, the corporate world, particularly investors, and society as a whole to recognise and embrace the huge value that female entrepreneurs bring.
Below are some insights and advice from the 52 female entrepreneurs that were interviewed for the book on how to make entrepreneurship a more level playing field for women.
A policy opportunity for U.K. government
When it comes to female-led start-ups, the U.K. lags behind other countries, with only 6% of U.K. women running their own businesses, compared to 15% of women in Canada, almost 11% of women in the U.S., and over 9% of women in Australia and the Netherlands. There is an extraordinary opportunity for the largely male-dominated political parties to make the U.K. a leading global power in helping women entrepreneurs to succeed. They are looking a gift horse in the mouth.
The scandalous lack of funding for female start-ups
The comparative numbers between male- and female-led start-ups is stark. Shockingly, just 1% of venture capital goes to businesses founded by all-female teams, 9% to businesses with at least one female founder, and 91% to businesses founded by all-male teams.
The reason is that most investors are men. Research shows that there is a lack of senior females on U.K. investment teams (13% of the total), with almost half of investment teams (48%) having no women at all. The result is male investors treating female entrepreneurs more sceptically when pitching and preferring to invest in more male-orientated business ideas that resonate with them. Being a woman pitching for money in those arenas takes courage and patience. Many successful, more female-orientated ideas are being left to fall by the wayside. Wake up boys! Research suggests that female start-ups are more profitable than their male-led counterparts, so it’s time to invest in them.
Supporting the changing nature of the U.K. workforce”
A huge theme in our interviews was the use of part- or full-time associates to minimise the risk and overhead of employing people. Businesses like Melanie Chevalier’s Creative Culture can muster a global army in moments using technology and a mutually agreeable arrangement that rewards both parties. Governments should seize the opportunity to mobilise the associate workforce and encourage enterprises to enter into productive partnerships with them – through tax breaks, education, recognition, social awards and the like. Long live the associate.
Corporates are missing out on a large talent pool
Many of our female interviewees began their working lives as employees in corporates but left due to the male-dominated work culture. On the one hand the glass ceiling and lack of senior female role models. On the other, the inflexible working arrangements when needing to care for family. The corporate working environment continues to be male dominated. It asks people to work early in the morning or late into the evening, or five days a week, or even at the weekend. And senior female role models continue to be few and far between. Unless the corporate world addresses the male cultural bias that makes it difficult for women to see themselves as having a place at the top table, or enables women to enjoy a full-on career whilst having children, they will continue to lose out on one of the country’s largest talent pools.
How female entrepreneurs are creating a new way forward
Many of our female entrepreneurs are deliberately creating more female-friendly, flexible working environments. They are creating a culture that they want to work in as well as tapping into the huge female talent pool that is often disenfranchised by the corporate world yet are keen to work.
Corporations and the public sector should look at and emulate some of the initiatives that female entrepreneurs are taking – such as putting in place flexible working hours and 4-day weeks and building more collegial and collaborative cultures. By doing this, corporations can help the U.K. leverage a huge asset and talent pool that is being neglected today, as well as attract top talent that finds it difficult to work in the more traditional and inflexible male working environment.
We implore Government, the corporate world and investors to recognise and embrace the huge value that female entrepreneurs bring by:
- Making the U.K. a leading global power in helping entrepreneurs and particularly female entrepreneurs to succeed.
- Evening up the entrepreneurial playing field, by making funding much more accessible to female-led start-ups.
- Mobilising the power of flexible, part-time workforces through tax breaks, education, recognition and the like.
- Addressing the male cultural bias in corporates, to enable women to see themselves as at the top table and to enjoy a full-on career whilst having children.
- Building more female-friendly, flexible working environments that will attract the huge
Ruth Saunders uses her 30 years of experience as a strategy consultant at McKinsey, marketer at P&G, advertising planner at Saatchi & Saatchi and market researcher at Mars Inc, to help clients be ‘On Point’. She is a marketing and branding consultant, trainer, speaker and coach – and author of “Marketing in the Boardroom: Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Board.”
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.