This week marks International Women’s Day (March 8) – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The 2022 theme for IWD is #BreakTheBias – and unfortunately, whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead.
In this blog, we look at the recent trends in terms of women in UK starting and running their own businesses. We also examine the reasons why women make great business leaders.
Trends for UK Women in Business
Looking way back to 1984 (when the earliest data is available), there were 646,000 women in self-employment in the UK. Fast forward to 2020 and that number had more than doubled to 1.6 million. Over the same period, the number of self-employed men in the UK increased by 47%, from 2.05 million to 3.02 million, so while the gap is certainly closing, but there are still just under twice as many self-employed men as women.
Up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men. Even if the UK were to achieve the same average share of women entrepreneurs as best-in-class peer countries, this would add £200 billion of new value to the UK economy (Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, HM Treasury 2019)
The economic shock of Covid-19 has hit women entrepreneurs harder than their male counterparts. In general, women-owned businesses were hit harder for several reasons:
- Their companies were smaller, making them more vulnerable to market and economic disruptions.
- The industries that they were concentrated in were more likely to be impacted by the pandemic than other sectors.
- Women have more care responsibilities at home.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, there are signs that these statistics are changing: Women in Europe had a record year in 2021, where there were more “successful” female-led exits than ever. Today, 25% of the UK’s high-growth companies have a female founder, according to Beauhurst.
Statistics from a multitude of multi-national studies show that, despite additional barriers which they face, women entrepreneurs are higher performing, more successful, bring greater revenues to their companies, and are wiser decision-makers than men. Also, women entrepreneurs have been found to be more autonomous, more positive, more aggressive, have better common sense, think more critically, and have a greater resolve to be successful than men.
As each day passes, more women are dominating the business world. Companies like IBM, General Motors, and other Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. Experts at Boston Consulting Group also found that women made twice as much per dollar of investment than men. Because of that, they believe that it would be better to invest in women-owned companies than those run by men.
Our top 12 reasons why women make great business leaders
In celebration of IWD, let’s take a look at just some of the reasons why women are so successful in business:
1. The old saying that women are better at multi-tasking might just be true
Many women do tend to have great multitasking abilities. They don’t just have to continuously focus on one thing at a time. Because of this, they can work on various parts of the job at once. This multitasking ability helps them to constantly be on the move and work to keep their company running smoothly.
2. Women tend to be more comfortable displaying empathy and are better connected as a result
Another reason why women make better entrepreneurs is that many are inclined to show more empathy. They can be more in tune with the feelings and thoughts of their employees and customers. Due to this, many women entrepreneurs have the ability to make more connections and lasting relationships in their business.
Women are nearly three times as likely to collaborate with research institutions (universities in particular) than male businesses (11.4% compared with 3.8%) according to the British Chambers of Commerce.
3. Women tend to be more honest
Women can be more honest than men both in business and in life in general. While men are more focused when discussing problems, women tend to examine the issues closely. From there, they can extract the cause and provide solutions to address the problem. This can help in that the earlier a problem is solved, the sooner they can go back to focusing on their company’s growth.
Women are more talkative than men and are less restrained when it comes to verbalizing their thoughts. They are less likely to be able to to express their feelings, making it easier for them to communicate with their peers. This honesty also makes it easier for them to ask for help when they need it which helps to avoid mistakes.
4. Women take calculated risks
Men and women entrepreneurs are both risk-takers. However, research shows that women are more ready to take risks compared to men if they feel that it will produce great results.
Women will assess the situation first, taking into account and weighing the advantages and disadvantages and are more likely to view risks as “opportunities”.
5. Women are More Resilient
Women are no strangers when it comes to discrimination in the business world. Many will have experienced unfair treatment, lesser opportunities and lower wages. However, these experiences build womens’ resilience and determination to succeed.
Both men and women entrepreneurs encounter discrimination at some point. Unfortunately, women experience it more often. It teaches them to persevere even in the most difficult time in their business.
6. They Make Sure the Job is Done Right
In many businesses today, jobs are sometimes rushed due to high demand which often can lead to mediocre results. Many women entrepreneurs work to make sure that the job is done right and take their time so they can produce high-quality results.
7. Love it or hate it – they ask more questions!
Many entrepreneurs shy away from asking tough questions with answers that might not benefit them. However, you’ll find that a majority of women entrepreneurs often ask questions, even if the answers might not be what they want. They ask questions to find what is and isn’t working in their business. Customers are the beneficiaries of this because these questions will more than likely give them better services and products.
“I want every little girl who’s been told she’s bossy to be told again she has leadership skills.” Sheryl Sandberg
Women can be more direct and better at putting people at ease in meetings which is why they can make better networkers for the same reason.
8. Hard work is mandatory
Great success grows from the desire to work hard and take ownership and women entrepreneurs are used to working harder. They are always on the move and even if a task is difficult, many of them push themselves to complete it. You’ll find that many women entrepreneurs will work tirelessly until problems are resolved.
9. Inclusivity is key
A majority of women entrepreneurs often try to make sure that everyone in the business is included. If you look at some businesses run by women, you’ll more than likely find that many of the employees are somehow included and encouraged in it. This in return can inspire employees and end up leading to a better business. Women play a big role in empowering other women and increasing the women’s workforce, and indirectly increasing UK GDP.
10. Women appreciate the value of creativity.
We live in a world where creativity is a very important commodity. We need to be creative in every aspect of running a business and any business that has a creativity shortage will find it very hard to survive in the coming years. Women tend to be more open minded, in touch with the creative aspects of life and they see value in creativity.
11. Women are great planners
While living in the present is good, you have to look into the future occasionally, especially if you run a business. Women are very adept at looking into the future to see how what is being done now, will impact it. Scheduling helps them to work better so that everything in the business is organized, like the budget. This helps to prevent unexpected financial and other business issues from occurring.
12. Some problems are just better addressed by women leaders!
Women-led enterprises often focus on improving the lives of women, solving specific issues that plague them while playing an active role in promoting health, education, literacy and addressing gender disparities and other challenges. Women, who reach out to or work with female entrepreneurs, are more likely to begin the journey themselves. And they are changing the gender parity to make female voices heard and female opinions counted.
Despite all these qualities that enable women to be successful in business. there are many barriers that women still perceive to getting into enterprise. Women are less likely to believe they possess entrepreneurial skills: Only 39% of women are confident in their capabilities to start a business compared to 55% of men. This is a perceived gap in ability, rather than an actual gap in skill sets. (Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, HM Treasury 2019). Women were 55% more likely than men to cite fear of going it alone as a primary reason for not starting a business. (Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, HM Treasury 2019)
According to statistics, women usually start companies with less financial capital and a lower level of human capital (for example – less experienced or trained employees). Such a start is a serious problem for women’s businesses and often affects all business activities. Around one-third of women say access to funding is the biggest barrier to starting a business, compared to 20% of men. A similar proportion cites funding as a barrier to scaling up an existing business. (Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, HM Treasury 2019). Fear of debt is the greatest obstacle to entrepreneurship for both men and women, although women are much more afraid of credit than men.
Women often feel lost at the beginning of their business path and find it difficult to start real “networking”, but research shows that as soon as women find a group they can trust, they quickly spread their wings.