Why are fewer than 1 in 4 small and medium sized businesses owned by women? What barriers do women in business face, preventing them from owning and growing their own companies? It is an important subject, which is taxing the Federation of Small Businesses and other business support organisations, who recognise the untapped potential of the millions of women interested in establishing themselves in business but are unsure how to go about it most effectively.
When surveyed, it seems that many of the barriers women faced are those that affect all new business owners or start-ups, but there are specific issues that affect women more than men. Women are known to worry more, have less confidence in the market, adopting different approaches to selling for example.Women are more likely to have childcare, and parent care issues and women’s attitudes to risk are different to men. A woman is also likely to have less capital to invest. Strangely, a woman’s more cautious approach to business and their greater unwillingness to get into debt ought to be seen as good things in business, but gender pay gaps continue to under-reward women and the language and expectations of the business world can still seem exclusive of issues women face.
So what can be done? For the last ten years, Enterprising Women has been working to provide women entrepreneurs with the support they need, offering workshops and opportunities to network that address the specific issue that concern a female in business. The website – www.enterprising-women.org – is full of interesting information (some available exclusively to members, but much also to the general browser) addressing general business advice alongside information on flexible working, networking and other things that can prevent a woman developing a business persona. The Federation of Small Business set up a Women in Enterprise Taskforce in 2016 and is keen to promote the issue. But how far has it succeeded? It is difficult to say.
What do you think about the role of women in business? How have you managed to break into what is still a male-dominated world? What barriers do you still face? We would love to know more. Our mentors work with both men, and women of course, but it is always important to keep in touch and Somerset needs its entrepreneurial women to feel supported and successful.