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Inspiring girls to aspire to entrepreneurship

When it comes to nurturing female entrepreneurship, the onus is on us to encourage aspiration from an early age. In the spirit of International Women's Day, we thought to revisit the impact of female entrepreneurship on the economy.

There are many women who start up a business from scratch and build successful, profitable companies. According to The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) 49.5% of small businesses int he past two years are owned by women. Whether they are married, single women or mothers who want to work around their children, these women have become very successful in their own right, using their imagination and entrepreneurial skills to succeed in their industries.

I recently had the privilege of delivering a workshop for young entrepreneurs at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy (PJEA) and felt inspired to see as many young women there as men. I believe that starting early is key, as many girls at an early age show signs of entrepreneurial potential, but simply need nurturing and encouragement.

More women entrepreneurs mean a boost to the economy

The Fawcett Report conducted a survey in 2013, “The changing labour market – delivering for women, delivering for growth” and reported that the current lack of women engaged in entrepreneurial activity represents huge untapped potential.

The report showed that furthermore, if women set up businesses at the same rate as men, there would be extra 150,000 new businesses in the UK each year that would bring a significant boost to the economy and that if the UK had the same level of female entrepreneurship as the US, there would be around 600,000 extra women owned businesses, contributing an extra £42 billion to the economy.

This shows a staggering potential for nurturing young female entrepreneurs, and since secondary school and college is such an important stage in a student’s life in choosing which path to take career-wise, this could be where we need to look to make a start.

Exactly how can small businesses help?

Whether you are a business that has a mentoring program or not, you can help. Any small business can help maximise women's contribution to future economic growth, as outlined in our past blog following a report published by independent Women's Business Council in June 2013:

  • Increase the availability of role models
    According to the study, 83 per cent of women who have started their own business were inspired by someone else who has done so. Clearly, this is an important factor in inspiring potential female entrepreneurs.

  • Access to finance
    As this is the most common barrier preventing most women from starting their own business, promotion of all the business financing options available to women needs to be more widespread.

  • Promote enterprise through education
    To make sure that such disparity does not continue into future generations, entrepreneurship needs to be promoted vigorously in the educational as well as business setting.

How can we inspire girls to aspire?

One practical step we could take collectively as business mentors, teachers and carers is to encourage an offering of statistics classes in mathematics, rather than concentrating on calculus.  And while the rise of business academies for teenagers, such as the PJEA mentioned above is certainly a welcome start, I would like to see simple business skills taught much earlier on in their school life, from as early as year 6 in primary school.  This need only be as something simple as ‘leadership’ or team building skills.

Those of us who already run a business could provide mentoring or events where young female students can meet female entrepreneurs to see first-hand how we have succeeded in starting and growing a business, and what it entails.

I would also love to see us explore crowd funding platforms particularly aimed at young women and promoted as a way of encouraging them to start their own businesses without risking their or their parent’s capital.

Overall, however, perhaps what is probably the most encouraging of all for me personally is that the young women I worked with at the PJEA were all keen to step outside of traditional gender roles.

It’s a great start.  When young women are keen to take on the business world, it’s up to us to show them that it is not based on gender, but on ability.
Together, it’s now up to us to show them all the wonderful possibilities open to them, and encourage them to explore their options to even greater heights.