Ali Golds explains why women have all the skills to make great entrepreneurs and what she thinks is holding many back.
Women account for less than a third of those who are self-employed, although between 2008-2011 they represented 80% of the new self-employed (Labour Force Survey, Office of National Statistics 2013). They start businesses with less capital and are definitely less likely to apply for funding.
Women have lower confidence in their abilities and are scared of failing, yet those who do take the plunge appreciate the flexibility and opportunities that self-employment can offer, particularly to those women with families. Interestingly, more women than men in the age ranges 30-39 and 40-49 are running their own businesses.
So why are there so many contradictions when the evidence is that women actually make fantastic entrepreneurs?
I work with women who want to set up businesses and, during my travels around the UK speaking and training, I come across lots of ladies who are really keen to have a go at starting their own company, but find something stopping them. When we get down to it, the real reasons behind that barrier are not a lack of ability or qualifications – or even experience – it’s just that us girls are nervous of getting it wrong. We spend far too much time planning, and re-planning and planning again – just to be on the safe side – and not enough actually getting out there and doing it.
My experience of working with female entrepreneurs is that they are well-organised, passionate, dynamic and extraordinarily hardworking. They certainly plan their businesses well, often with more detail than the men I work with who are more prepared to take risks, but also know how important it is to embrace the unpredictability and the challenges ahead and to carry on regardless.
Women are fantastic multi-taskers – another useful skill in business – and are also great at diffusing tricky situations, which makes for smoother sales negotiations and quicker outcomes.
Lots of the women entrepreneurs that I know are also mums; so not only are they juggling their work life, but they’re also juggling their home lives too. If they work from home, like me, they become super adept at cooking supper, doing the washing and making business calls whilst overseeing homework – all at the same time!
Women seem to think that if you’re a mum, you definitely can’t then run a business. Not so, ladies. Use those skills to your advantage and fulfil your potential.
*Ali is a successful entrepreneur. She founded her first business in 2000 and, so far, has run and managed five successful businesses. Ali is currently founder and CEO of Operation Enterprise and The Juno Project.