International Women’s Day means different things to different people, but for us, it’s a great time to show support for female entrepreneurship in the UK.
The 8th March has been celebrated since 1909, so it's certainly not a recent fad. But over 100 years on, despite enormous leaps in women’s rights and gender equality, and historic events that have changed how women are viewed in the workplace, we still live in a world where women are significantly less likely to start up businesses than their male counterparts.
Of course, there are many social factors which might explain this, but it’s difficult to ignore the underlying question here: why do so many women still lack the confidence to set up their own business?
According to The Female Founders Programme, which launched last week, if barriers like limited access to finance, low confidence or an absence of role models were better addressed, and if women were setting up new businesses at the same rate as men, the UK’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) could increase by 10% by 2030 (RBS values this at around £60 billion). In other words, female entrepreneurship isn’t just important for women: it also has the potential to be seriously good for economic growth in the UK.
This year, International Women's Day is all about the theme #BeBoldForChange. You might feel that you have little power to drive equality in the workplace. As many do, you might even feel you already work in a setting which is 100% equal for men and women. If that’s the case, then you must be doing something right – but the chances are there are still more steps to take towards creating a positive environment where everyone feels heard and is able to progress at the same speed. Here are a few positive steps you can take.
What can business leaders do to #BeBoldForChange?
1. Eliminate gender assumptions in the workplace.
Stop yourself from making assumptions based on gender. It might sound obvious, but it happens all the time, both inside and outside the workplace.
When a leader overlooks an employee or candidate’s abilities based on any kind of preconception, they lose out on what that employee could have brought to the table. But it's not just about work credentials when it comes to your workplace: the same goes for non-work activities. For example, leaving female co-workers out of a company email about football sweepstakes because you assume it's something they wouldn't be interested in isn't acceptable. Nor would any other action which creates an environment of gender separation.
2. Identify and close your pay gap.
Employers with 250 or more members of staff are now going to be legally required to publish statutory calculations on their gender pay gap, but what about smaller-scale organisations and startups? There’s no legislation on this as yet, but transparency on the topic of how each employee can get a salary increase will not only send a strong message to your stakeholders on your commitment to equality – it’ll also have a huge impact on the economy if others follow suit. Know what your gap is and let everyone know the concerted effort you're making to close it.
Don’t forget, around 99% of the UK’s businesses are SMEs falling into the “under 250 employees” bracket, so there is a lot of ground to cover here before we're anywhere close to equal pay.
3. Encourage role modelling and mentorship.
If you yourself are a female entrepreneur or leader, flaunt your success! Check out what you can do to be an active role model for young girls on a public stage, whether large or small. Offer to speak at a careers day at a local school, write about your experience for a website or news outlet, and make yourself available to conferences, seminars or mentorship programmes in your industry.
If you don't fall under the female entrepreneur category, why not encourage a mentorship programme within your company? Identify the women with the right skills and attitude to act as mentors to guide younger employees – it’s not costly, and promoting coaching and feedback as part of your organisational culture is a great way to develop the value of your junior employees and improve employee motivation.
How to get involved on International Women’s Day
Like every year, International Women’s Day will be all about celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world. Acknowledging that progress is slower in some countries, the day will be representative of wider global action that is needed for us to reach gender equality in business, politics, and society in general.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. The mission will be to encourage people around the globe to join forces through purposeful collaboration and bold action.
Events taking place in the UK include General Assembly Tech Talks, which are happening across 11 major cities including London, New York and Singapore; a celebratory event in The Courtyard Dining Room at Newcastle University; and the Northamptonshire International Women’s Day lunch, which is sponsored by Avon UK and supported by Winwick Hall.
If you can’t get to an event, there are still a number of ways to get involved. Take action in your daily life by vocally celebrating women’s achievements and contributions; invite women into business situations where there is not sufficient female representation; do all you can to support women choosing STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) education and careers.
The Female Founders Programme
So, let’s talk about The Female Founders Programme. Dirk Bischof, the CEO of Hatch Enterprise, one of the social enterprises behind the programme, told us, "We know there is demand from women who want to grow their businesses and who are beyond the initial startup phase”. He added, “we want to accompany our entrepreneurs on this journey for the first three years of their venture, after which they have a very big likelihood of owning a sustainable business.”
If you want to apply for the Female Founders Programme, here are the facts:
The Female Founders Programme (FFP) is a new business accelerator programme taking place in London. It’s funded by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation’s overall Small Business Development Goals, whose aim is to support SME growth and job creation in underprivileged areas through business training.
Several courses tailored to support female entrepreneurs will aim to help through workshops, mentoring, meet-ups, networking events and masterclasses.
The programme is being delivered by social enterprises Hatch Enterprise and Enterprise Enfield, and funded by JP Morgan. Guidance and training through the programme will be available to 60 London-based female entrepreneurs, all who are at different stages in their company’s life.
The courses are split into different requirements as follows:
South London Female Founders Lab (delivered by Hatch Enterprise):
5 female entrepreneurs
Turnover of less than £20,000
Operating for more than 1 year
0-1 members of staff
Price: £950 (bursaries available)
South London Female Founders Accelerator (delivered by Hatch Enterprise):
25 female entrepreneurs
Turnover of more than £20,000
Operating for more than 1 year
At least 1 member of staff
Price: £1400 (bursaries available)
East/North London Female Founders Accelerator Programme (delivered by Enterprise Enfield):
30 female entrepreneurs
Turnover of over £20,000
Minimum of 2 employees (including the owner)
The programme will take place over a four month period. There will be a summer intake: just visit www.femalefounders.london to apply or for more information.
The goal for attendees will be to refine their business models and work on any gaps in their existing skill set which may slow progress – whether in leadership, finance, sales, HR, or marketing. The programme aims to help this group of entrepreneurs to identify their own individual growth obstacles and develop a plan for moving forward.
They’ll also be offered the chance to network with top business influencers and be able to make connections with fellow female founders.
The programme is structured in this way in order to address the facts: not only are men now twice as likely to form a company or be involved in the early stages of a new venture. Businesses led by females in the UK also have a higher churn rate, meaning more closures proportionately. According to an RBS report on the subject of women in business, women are less likely to state ‘business failure’ as the reason for the closure of their company, and more likely to cite ‘personal reasons’.
To learn more about International Women’s Day, visit their website or get in touch with the following contacts:
Female Founders Accelerator Programme by Enterprise Enfield
Female Founders Accelerator by Hatch Enterprise
Information on how to form a limited company
Thinking about setting up shop? Make sure you have all the right information in front of you before you get started. We’ve created some online company formation guides to help our customers understand the process from start to finish. To learn more about running a company in general, you can also visit our help centre.