Last week I headed up to Manchester where I was keynote speaker at the Forward Ladies Regional Business Awards. As an alumni of the business support women’s group: Forward Ladies, I’ve been to many such events over the years, having won several awards and made friends with fellow, female entrepreneurs.
It had been a number of years that I’d actually spoken at a gathering, with the exception of my dad’s 90thbirthday party in July, when I made everyone cry. My theme of the Highs & Lows of an Entrepreneur was meant to inspire women on how to get through the tough challenges of running your own business. Relaying the roller-coaster ride that I’ve had, with honesty, humility and humour also brought some tears to the eyes of this audience, many of whom know only too well how hard it is being a female entrepreneur in business culture, that contains attitudes and policies that discount a feminine perspective.
Despite the fact that I had run several businesses as a successful, serial, creative entrepreneur, it was difficult for me to get financial backing for a fast-growth, manufacturing company over the last decade. It was Santander Corporate Bank, led by a woman, Ana Botin, that finally backed my business and enabled it to grow. It was a female Business Angel that stepped in with an investment and sound, financial advice that taught me greater prudency, having been knocking on the doors of banks and financial institutions with no success. Not surprisingly, all of the decision-making positions were occupied by men … and most still will be today.
Females outperform males at every level of education and as such enter the workplace on a better footing than men. By the time of their 40thbirthday, most of the positions of influence, power and higher pay will be occupied by men and most of the fastest growing businesses that are successful in attracting investment will be run by men. What’s gone wrong for women in the workplace? A shocking inadequacy in childcare support for working parents who are prime carers (usually the woman), doubled up with an inflexible and short sighted business culture that does not take a wholistic approach to the well-being of their employees, works against women who want to drive forward their careers whilst also care for a child.
But the third component lies within our intimate relationships. Did you know that women who work also carry out double the housework and triple the childcare of their male partners? It’s hard to push forward through the glass ceiling or your business when you’re also the one pushing the pram … and the hoover.
Over three decades of being in business I’ve come to realise that a radical revolution is required at home and at work if women are to achieve equality in the workplace. Only a dedicated and strategic combination of change in public policy, business culture and the dynamics of our personal relationships will effect change.
In my TEDX talk at Sheffield Hallam University on 9thNovember I put forward ideas on how a creative and wholistic approach to gender inequality in the workplace can effect change.