Women are coming together in support of equality and empowerment at home and in the workplace. The recent rise of girl power has been harnessed by many women-led enterprises to encourage and show young girls that they can be anything they want to be!
Did you ever imagine that you could be part of this movement? Being a female entrepreneur can be lonely, cut-throat, stressful and demotivating at times, but once you learn to navigate the process and realise your worth in the marketplace – great things can happen.
There is no lack of talent or appetite preventing women from entering the business world as leaders or board members. Rather it is the patriarchy and old school mentality of the baby-boomers that place unnecessary obstacles in the way of aspiring young women. Being a woman in business or trying to start a new venture as a female leader is hard. Very hard.
The issues around equality and empowerment must be addressed and corrected in order for the world to evolve and grow in a positive direction. The fact that we have the need for these sorts of discussions can be disheartening, but it has to be done and changes have to be made. The trick is to keep having the conversation and keep pushing for change in order to revolutionise an outdated business model designed to benefit only men in the working world.
You can't, however, wait for change; you must be the change and forge your way into the world of business and entrepreneurship. If you have started a business at home and have become so successful that you need to expand, don't fret, you have a lot of support around you. You only need to know where to look.
According to Mastercard, 25.8% of business owners in the UK are women. Statista shows that in women starting their own businesses, a 72% increase occurred between 2000 and 2016, with female entrepreneurs generating 18,000 jobs in 2015, adding to economic growth and GDP.
Looking at these stats, one can see how significant women are to society and the economy. With this in mind, consider hiring women from diverse backgrounds to take your business from start-up to FTSE listed. Hiring women only is a good human capital model to encourage the model of equality and empowerment within the business world.
The untapped potential of female entrepreneurship can be a significant boost for the UK economy and needs more funding and attention to bloom. 'RBS has calculated that boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver approximately £60B extra to the UK economy,' according to Prowess. This astronomical figure alone should be enough motivation for leaders and governments to invest time and money into female entrepreneurship.
Funding For Growth
Accessing funding for businesses is still a stumbling block for women. Start-ups are especially difficult to finance with a female-only board. Research has shown that a women-only board is four times less likely to qualify for funding than one made up of men. Besides appearing on an episode of Dragon's Den, what other financial opportunities exist for women wanting to make their mark in the world of entrepreneurship?
Fortunately, there are funding opportunities and business grants available for women to take their business to the next level. The difference between a business grant and a loan is that the grant is given with the specific purpose of investment into the business. A loan must be paid back with interest over a specific period of time. In essence, funding is given, and a loan is money that is lent.
If you are considering approaching a bank, a start-up or business loan can be an answer to your financial needs. Start-up loans have also been popular of late which offers the opportunity to expand and grow your business with interest rates tailored to your needs.
Office Space For Employees
Finding appropriate office space will depend on what your business needs and budget are. Will you be needing an office type set-up, warehousing or manufacturing space? The best way to find office space is to speak to experts in fit-out, design, refurbishment, and furniture solutions first and then find office space to house your business.
If you are in Scotland, finding an office to rent in Glasgow can be daunting but also exciting as Glasgow is one of the top 15 cities in the UK for start-up and small business growth in the UK. Amos Beech offers refurbishment and re-design of office spaces all over the city at an affordable rate to suit your business needs.
If you find a space which you think is suitable for your business needs in Glasgow, try incorporating sustainable work processes and materials, which will pay off in the long run. Not only will you be a savvy businesswoman but an eco-conscious one too!
Stick to your budget and keep the end goal in sight. Getting your business up and running is a priority so at times just a simple coat of paint and upcycled office furniture used in clever ways may be just what you need.
Creating an office space with your business vision and mission in mind should accommodate your employees too. Consult with an HR professional to ensure that your contracts and workspace are all above board and compliant.
When hiring women, consider their needs – working remotely when they are needed at home could be a great perk! Create an environment and culture of understanding and empowering women which speaks back to your business strategy. Hiring diverse women can be beneficial for innovation, collaboration and cultivating a female entrepreneur-rich culture.
Gaining momentum or traction on female-led businesses can be achieved by networking with people or industries that are passionate about female-led enterprises locally and globally. Attending or hosting networking events at least annually provides the opportunity to grow your business by having the right conversations with the right people.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of entrepreneurship and women in business is achieved by subscribing to or reading publications that promote and understand the plight of a businesswoman. Books and talks on women empowerment are available at the click of a button. Simply YouTube or Google these keywords to stay up to speed on what is happening within the world of girl power.
Certain programs or events also allow the opportunity to not only network but mentor young girls and ladies in achieving their potential.
Initiatives such as Business Women Scotland Awards, showcase women-led businesses and place them in the spotlight. Not only do they have categories that highlight and celebrate women entrepreneurs, but they support a charity initiative for women. Proceeds from their evening soiree go towards a charity which provides interviewing skills and clothing for women in need.
Social media is a powerhouse for women in business, as the organic reach and potential to promote women-led enterprises is enormous. This is partly due to the fact that the majority of active social media users are in fact, female. Creating awareness of the gender funding gap for female entrepreneurs can be done on social media platforms and attract investors
Women are natural communicators and social media provides the platform for engagement with like-minded individuals and companies which can add value to your company. Marketing and networking on social media can be done without cost, which makes it perfect for a start-up.
Women can engage with thought leaders and business minds to foster relationships that can be instrumental to business growth and awareness. Having a solid presence on social media can also establish women entrepreneurs as thought leaders in the business world too. Leveraging the reach of social media is important in creating awareness around equality and inclusion.
Unfortunately, when starting a business, there will be trying circumstances as most female entrepreneurs continually have to defy stereotypes to be taken seriously. Sexist tendencies still dominate the business world and women have had to accept that proving themselves to male counterparts or leaders is par for the course.
Constant education and lobbying for equality are needed to bridge the gender pay gap and support equality. When starting out in the world of business as a female, accept that you will be a guiding light and a role model in the industry. Take this responsibility seriously and help set the standard for women in business. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small, and promote those around you who are disrupting the status quo for female kind.
As exhausting and trying as this can be, there is light at the end of the macho tunnel. Turning to mentors, role models or peers for support can be a proper boost when fighting for equality has got you demotivated. It helps to remember that you are not alone, that there are many more women (and men) fighting the same fight, raising the bar and achieving their business goals. Find these people, build a rapport with them, and use them as a sounding board from time to time.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."