A study last year by the department for business revealed that – finally – more women are taking the plunge and launching their own businesses.
The number is still pretty low – just nineteen per cent of SMEs are female-led, according to the study, but, more encouragingly, a quarter of new businesses – two to three years old – were formed by women.
I was fortunate enough to speak at an all-female business event held by the New Entrepreneurs Foundation last week to drive more women to apply for its new programme, which got me really thinking about how we can encourage more women to choose the enterprise path, like I did.
Something Anne Marie Morris MP mentioned in her speech really brought it home – women-led businesses contribute £70 billion to the UK economy. That is surely too significant a figure to ignore?!
So, here’s my advice to make sure women get in the game and level the playing field:
1. Stop thinking of ‘female’ as a disadvantage.
You’re a woman... so what?! I once heard a young female entrepreneur ask, “I’m pitching to investors and worried that they’ll look at me and think, ‘What if she gets engaged and has babies?’”
4. Focus on what you can control.
You’re going to come up against people who want you to feel like you don’t deserve something because you’re a woman. Let these people make you, not break you – those who try to bring you down often act that way because they feel like you are above them.
5. Don't judge other women.
Some women choose to focus on career. Some women choose to focus on family. Some women choose both. I don’t feel like it’s my right to comment on any other woman’s choices because I know that there’s always more to her story than what I can see.
6. Really get to know yourself.
Women are often so focused on those around them instead of putting themselves first. Whether it’s through journaling, yoga, therapy, or a retreat – take time out to be with the only person you’re ever going to really know. Getting to know your own mind can keep you grounded when things are rocky.
7. Nurture your male friendships
Male-female friendships don’t have to be weird unless somebody makes it weird. I have a lot of male friends and I value those friendships just as much as I value my female ones.
8. Ignore your mother’s nagging when it comes to your love life
My mother used to be on my back about the ‘lack of effort’ that I apparently put into my love life until I told her what I’ve always believed: it happens when it happens. As you get older and get to know more guys, you learn that truly loving relationships are places where you go to give, not places where you go to take. It can take time to find (and to become ready) for that. Focus on building your business and follow your own timeline, not one projected by magazines and popular culture.
9. Celebrate being a woman
The worlds of femininity and masculinity are colliding and I feel like millennial females are caught in this collective identity crisis. On the one hand, it’s exciting to be a woman in an era where we can vote, become CEO, or run for President.
10. Always have faith in yourself
I’ve met a lot of female entrepreneurs who have faith in their abilities but don’t have faith their worthiness of love, affection, true friendship. When it comes to finding investors or customers, or a boyfriend or a life partner, or great girlfriends… it starts with being able to accept yourself wholeheartedly.