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How To Increase Female Entrepreneurship

We ask the experts

1Aug

The gender pay gap has been brought into sharp focus in recent weeks following the release of BBC top earners in the UK, which revealed that only a third of the BBC’s 96 top-earning talent were women and that its seven best-paid stars were all men. The problem is particularly prominent for black women, who make just 63 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. In a moving essay, Serena Williams said, ‘We deserve equal pay for our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our nieces, friends, and colleagues – but mostly for ourselves.’

However, while gender parity is absolutely an issue that needs to be resolved, there is one upside. Women are increasingly taking the issue into their own hands. According to new research from Aston University, the rate of entrepreneurialism in the UK has risen far faster among women than men in the past decade.

Researchers compared the number of women and who set up their own business between 2003-6 and 2013-16. They found that among females, the number rose by 45%, compared to just 27% among men. Overall, men were still almost twice as likely to be entrepreneurs, with 10.4% of men running their own business versus 5.5% of women, but it is definitely a move in the right direction.

This adjustment is necessary if the economy is going to reach its true potential. New research by Facebook estimated that the UK alone is missing out on a potential £10.01 billion boost to the economy by not tackling the challenges facing women who want to start their own business. If a mere fifth of potential female entrepreneurs were empowered to start their own business, the UK would benefit to the tune of more than 340,000 new businesses and 425,000 jobs.

There are a number of programs that aim to do this. The Althea-Imperial Program, for example, is a personal and professional development program aimed at women studying at the Imperial university in the UK. They run a series of workshops for women designed to help develop enterprising ideas, with tailored one-to-one mentoring. Facebook has also launched the SheMeansBusiness initiative alongside the British Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, which is a platform with advises, online learning sessions and workshops for potential female entrepreneurs.

More than this, however, young women need role models. We asked four leading industry professionals what advice they would give to women thinking about starting their own business.

Shannon Muruli, the Creator of 'School of Courage for Women'

Business startup information is everywhere. So, I don’t think women refrain from becoming entrepreneurs because they lack access regarding 'how to' to start a business. I believe what holds women back from becoming entrepreneurs boils down to them partnering with their fear-driven ego. It is the enemy of ambition, and its opponent is courage. And their fear driven ego convinces them {repeatedly} that they should not start a business {because they will not succeed} for one reason or another.

Wendy Goldberg, Chief Communication Officer at iHeartMedia

I always tell young women that you shouldn’t plan to have a plan – no matter how productive mapping out your career in advance might feel. There’s no formula for success, and if you’re not willing to take advantage of opportunities as they arise because they may not be part of your plan, you could miss out on the experiences that end up really defining your career.

Sam Fay, SVP Brand Strategy at Guiness World Records

Embrace failure. I think it’s a shame that this piece of advice has been over-hyped during the last couple of years ago and has lost its relevance. I really believe you have to get things wrong to learn from them, and not be afraid of that. JK Rowling sums it up best: ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all. In which case, you’ve failed by default.’

Kai Falkenberg, First Deputy Commissioner, the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, City of New York

We are too afraid to fail. We're not taking enough risks. We're not pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. We're too used to being the teacher’s pet - doing what we are told and not challenging ourselves. As a result, we're not exuding the confidence necessary to assume the highest leadership positions.

We should be less afraid to fail. After failing several times, the confidence will come, so there will be fewer risks to miss the opportunity to excel.

Don't ruminate, act. Make lots of mistakes and learn from them.

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