Mon 11 / 04 / 22
Why we need more women leading businesses
Businesses are more successful, profitable and innovative with diverse teams. So why are there so many barriers to women progressing or starting their own business? Mo Kanjilal and Allegra Chapman from diversity and inclusion consultancy, Watch This Sp_ce, look at what the barriers are, how we can empower women in business, and what we can do about it.
By Mo Kanjilal & Allegra Chapman of Watch This Sp_ce
The facts tell the story. We need more women leading businesses, and more women starting their own businesses to create the future we want to see.
Businesses are more successful with diverse teams creating ideas together. People are happier working in inclusive teams. Yet we know that there are so many barriers in the way for women to progress to leadership roles and to start their own businesses.
So why is that?
Well let’s look at the facts here:
- 90% of FTSE 100 CEOs are white men.
- Women get only 2% of venture capital funding when they start businesses.
- Women are paid 15% less than their male counterparts in employed roles.
- Women are working six weeks every year for free.
But we know that...
Businesses are more successful when they’re more diverse. Diverse and inclusive companies generate:
- 19% higher innovation
- 73% better decisions
- 21% higher profits
And if there are more women in leadership roles in organisations, that leads to more women progressing into leadership roles. And it drives innovation within the wider business community, forcing other organisations to up their game too.
If we progress with seeing more women in leadership roles, it means young people will be used to seeing women in those roles. This will have an impact on all young people, and all of our futures, as seeing women as leaders becomes normalised, instead of an exception.
Empowering Women in Business
We were thrilled to be invited by Simply Business to speak at an event with Baroness Karren Brady about empowering women in business. She talked about the qualities women need to succeed in business. She stressed the importance of kicking open the door for yourself, and making sure you hold that door open for other women. We need to help each other.
We talked about the stark facts, that there is still so far to go. Women are 24% less likely to be promoted. 54,000 women lose their jobs every year through maternity discrimination. And it doesn’t get any easier for women as they get older, 64% of older women face age discrimination.
And we know all of these factors intersect with other factors that affect people’s lives. Women of colour face even more challenges, those who have not had economic advantages in life face barriers, and those with disabilities face so many challenges.
When we think about the marketing and messages we see, it’s all around us. The media usually portrays leaders as men. If women are leaders, the media coverage usually focuses on their shoes and clothes. At work, women are interrupted in meetings 50% of the time, and women who negotiate, for example higher salaries, are viewed negatively.
What can we do?
So, what are some of the things we can do? Well for a start this is not about simply matching the behaviours and ways that men who are leaders work. We need to see different types of leaders, bringing their own unique styles into workplaces.
The truth is, we need to see wide-ranging systemic change across all areas of our lives. We need children to see that leaders look and sound different. There is no one type of person who's always a leader. There are no limits to roles people can pursue. For this to change, we need to see media, marketing and other areas showing different types of people as leaders.
And the practicalities around this, the things we can do and have an effect on are there too. For women who want to progress, think about what your unique strengths and skills are - focus on building them and finding opportunities to shine. Here’s some advice from us that we shared in the webinar:
- Understand your unique strengths and skills and shout about them
- Get clear on your goals so you know what you want to achieve
- Find someone who has done what you want to do and ask them for help
- Join networks and make connections
- Amplify women’s voices on social media
This is something for everyone to work on. For everyone, if you’re speaking at an event, ask who the other speakers are to make sure there is a good balance. If you see a woman speak in a meeting and be interrupted, then speak up, and bring the attention back to her and reinforce her point. If you are in a position to progress people’s careers, make sure you are being inclusive in who you give opportunities to. Mentor young people to help them progress their careers.
To drive real, lasting change, we are also going to need to force this through campaigning and legislation change. We do a lot of this at Watch This Sp_ce and there are many fantastic organisations who are leading campaigns on many issues. Examples of things we campaign for are:
- Equal pay enshrined in law
- End salary secrecy and #SayThePay
- Compensation for unpaid labour
- Flexible working by default
- Affordable, sustainable childcare
- Commitment to challenging bias
These changes we want to see are not going to happen without commitment from everyone. Businesses need to genuinely commit to driving those changes. For any leaders reading this who can help drive those changes, this is about fighting for a fairer world, but it’s also about the future of businesses. Diverse teams generate more new ideas, profits and work more productively. And people are happier in diverse teams too! Let’s all commit to working towards a more inclusive future for everyone.
For help and to find out more about Watch This Sp_ce go to www.watchthisspace.uk and on social media we are @watchthisspce. We also run a Facebook Group with lots of support, type ‘The Sp_ce’ in Facebook.
Photos of the Watch This Sp_ce team by Lauren Psyk.
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