Much has been said about the possible financial repercussions of Brexit, but few have talked about how it could be affecting the rights of women, including female entrepreneurs. Worryingly, there have been a number of reports that suggest Brexit could have a disproportionately negative effect on women, as much of the equal rights legislation under the EU will no longer be applicable in the UK. Here we will outline some of the biggest challenges female entrepreneurs have to overcome today, and will have to overcome in the impending Brexit transition.
Women are less Certain About their Future Prospects than Man
According to a recent study conducted by RateSetter, entrepreneurs who were women had a far less positive outlook for their business post Brexit than their male counterparts. As a matter of fact, only 10% of women surveyed said that they believe the Brexit would actually benefit their business, compared to about 21% for men.
Women also expressed more of a need to have a close relationship with finance providers. About 10% said that this relationship was central to them, versus around 6% for the males. This reflects the financial uncertainty many starting female entrepreneurs have to deal with. They were also more inclined to want to work with lenders that understood their business model, which could be an issue as Brexit is set to have huge repercussions on the amount of capital available to investors.
Trade Issues Disproportionately Affect Women
One of the biggest areas of concern in Brexit talks is trade agreements. Trade agreements influence all areas of businesses, but will have a particularly big impact on women. These agreements often do not acknowledge the distinct but important contributions of men and women in industry, and how certain policies could end up hurting female dominated ones.
A recent report by Dr Marie Ann Stephenson concluded that the UK government will have to build the necessary skills and expertise from scratch to perform thorough impact assessments on possible trade agreements, and to make sure that trade negotiations are informed by complex analysis that takes gender equality into consideration as well. According to the report, trade agreements often completely overlook women's economic rights and adopt a sort of gender blindness that could ultimately be detrimental.
Women in Life Sciences
One of the industries that could be severely affected by Brexit is the life science industry, in which the picture is complicated in terms of gender equality. According to a report by Deloitte, women make up 49 per cent of the life sciences workforce worldwide, which is higher than other STEM industries. However, women fill just 10 per cent of board positions and 20 per cent of leadership teams. Some industry players recognise this gender imbalance, for example Antibodies.com offer scholarships to support the next generation of scientists and leaders. However, if Brexit ends up damaging the whole industry, it is unlikely that these initiatives will continue and that the numbers of females in the board room will improve, as addressing this gender imbalance will no doubt fall to the back of the line in terms of priorities.
Women are Already Struggling with Funding Bias
Female entrepreneurs are already in a difficult position, as they are dealt a disproportionately low amount of funding in the UK today. As a matter of fact, only about 20% of all start-ups that get funding are founded by women. And the fact that only about 13% of all senior executives on investment teams are women is problematic as well.
Not only does it make obtaining finance more difficult for women, it also discourages a lot of women from taking the leap and starting their own company in the first place. A recent review found that the UK might be losing up to £250bn in innovation and economic value due to the many barriers female entrepreneurs have to face. One such barrier being the fact that women still have to take on the larger portion of childcare duties on average.
Another barrier is the lower amount of capital women have to start with. According to the Rose Review, women had to start with 53% less in capital the men on average. Not only that, but they were also less likely to take on debt, and many were less informed about funding options.
The review recommends that the UK does more to boost funding for women led businesses. While the country remains the business capital of Europe, it is well behind countries like Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands when it comes to the proportion of women owned businesses.
According to data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the UK's female to male entrepreneur ratio was at around 0.46, which is about a 2 to 1 ratio in favour of men. In comparison, this ratio was 0.8 in Spain, and 0.9 in Netherlands, which is almost approaching full parity. And what is even more alarming is that these numbers do not take revenue into consideration, meaning that the situation for female-led UK businesses might be even worse than the data suggests.
According to the Rose Report, reaching a 0.9 ratio could add an additional 200 billion pounds in financial value to the UK economy. But for this to happen, more than just isolated initiatives will have to be taken. A whole business culture will have to be changed as well. Investors must realise how diversity can foster innovation, and the potential female entrepreneurs can offer.
One study in particular found that companies that had a more diverse team of executives were 21% more likely to be profitable. This number jumped to 27% when looking at long term figures. Investors will have to value the new solutions and perspectives female entrepreneurs bring to the table, which men too often lack or disregard.
Moving forward, more will have to be done to examine the impact of Brexit on female UK entrepreneurship. More importantly, things will have to be done to fix the existing inequitable business climate. Not only is it doing a huge disservice to the female citizens of this country, but cheating the country of its full economic potential.
4 min read
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.