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.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist