Tag Archives: women in business

The Apprentice 2013: ‘What’s wrong with being a strong woman in business?’

18 Jul

“What’s wrong with being a strong, direct, outspoken woman in business?” asked Luisa Zissman at the start of the series finale of The Apprentice 2013 – a final she went on to lose against Leah Totton.

Luisa had been called manipulative and argumentative during the series, and even her teammates in the final, who were meant to be supporting her, were “glad to see her sweating a bit”. And yet Luisa remained feisty and focused on bringing her online baking brand to life – even to the point of talking too much, listening too little, and reacting emotionally after her presentation to the trade.

Leah Totton was even more focused, I thought, giving her teammates’ contributions short shrift. She knew her own mind. “I like boring,” she retorted when someone criticised her logo design. There was no breaking down in tears for Leah after her presentation to the experts.

Irregardless of who won (though I would have gone for Luisa), I was fascinated to see two women reach the final and go all-out to win Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment. Some commentators have argued that the show did nothing for feminism, and Luisa was even quoted saying that feminism had nothing to do with her success. She said being “aggressive and ruthless” got her to where she is today. But I did love this riposte from Katy Brand, claiming that Luisa was more of a feminist than she believed herself to be.

Luisa may not have won the Apprentice money, but she has apparently found other investors willing to support her brand. I doubt we’ll have heard the last of her.

What’s wrong with being a strong woman in business? What, indeed!


Self-employed women create new breed of ‘everyday entrepreneur’

2 May

Many of the women who run their own businesses – often from home – and support their families often don’t even think of themselves as ‘entrepreneurs’. But a generation of enterprising women are propping up the economy with their passion and their daily dedication to their businesses.

Research carried out by Ipsos-Mori and written by Cass Business School on behalf of Avon – called the Avon Everyday Entrepreneur Report – shows that, contrary to the belief perpetuated by programmes such as Dragon’s Den, women are in business more for flexibility and passion than for money or power. Their businesses typically took little investment to get started, but the women running them are often the main breadwinners in the family.

Two-thirds (68%) of female start-ups are regarded as everyday entrepreneurs, according to the report – and 59% say that flexibility is the main reason they enjoy running their own business.

Report author Julie Logan, Cass Business School Professor of Entrepreneurship, said: “Contrary to the popular view, our findings show that when it comes to female entrepreneurs, they are not powered by ego but by the promise of flexibility, fulfillment and fun. The report explores how young women are more likely to embrace entrepreneurship as a career option and embark on this career trajectory from the outset.”

Here are some more results from the Avon Everyday Entrepreneur Report:

Are women their own worst enemies in business?

9 Mar

Women's competitive nature is turned on others as well as themselves (pic credit: istockphoto.com/Maridav)

Forget the sisterhood. Women are in it for themselves – and will clamber over female colleagues to get to the top. Women will also push themselves much harder than men because they feel they need to be at their desks to prove they’re working hard.

At least, that’s according to a survey from Business Environment, which shows that even with the rhetoric of International Women’s Day and the support for women’s social, economic and professional achievements worldwide, when it comes down to a local, everyday level, women can be their own worst enemies.

The research says that women are highly critical of their female colleagues, with nearly three quarters (72%) judging their co-workers on inappropriate dress – compared with just 60% of men. A quarter would also be reluctant to hire a woman with children or of child-bearing age.

The findings suggest that women have more respect for male business role models, with a quarter (28%) saying they aspire to Richard Branson’s management style, compared with 12% for Karren Brady’s.

However, women feel they have to work harder than men, and are guilty of Continue reading

More women are choosing entrepreneurship

7 Dec

More women have launched their own businesses in the last 12 months than in the previous year, according to figures from online business insurance broker Simply Business.

The company analysed its data on 117,000 start-up business quotes, and revealed that there is a 12% increase in female-run startups, and women account for 37% of all start-up businesses, up from 33% last year.

Creative and service-driven businesses – including cleaners, beauticians and hairdressers – are are the most popular choices, followed by pet minders, cake makers, market traders, caterers, teachers, accountants and financial advisers and lawyers. Complementary therapy has grown 16% year on year, education consultants by 61% and nursing businesses by 46%.

Jason Stockwood, chief executive of Simply Business, said: “With unemployment at its highest for 23 years, it is encouraging to see that more and more women are embracing the opportunity to set up on their own.”

What the UK can learn from gender diversity in Australia

9 Sep

The UK is apparently behind Australia when it comes to attitudes to boardroom diversity, according to a report in People Management. It quotes former Australian government cabinet minister Ros Kelly saying she was surprised that the UK hadn’t made more progress in improving the number of women in the boardroom. She blamed the old boys’ network, commuting and entrenched cultural attitudes for holding women back.

While the Lord Davies review in the UK has rejected boardroom quotas for now – instead calling on voluntary measures to secure 25% female representation at board level in FTSE 100 companies by 2015 – many companies are unsure about meeting those targets. But in Australia there are stricter plans afoot, under the 2013 Workplace Gender Equality Act, to oblige companies with more than 100 employees to report their performance against a set of gender-related metrics.

Interestingly, a senior female executive in Australia – former investment banker Carolyn Hewson – has set out what she believes are two major ways to promote more gender diversity in the workplace: one, is to embrace the ‘nanny culture‘ – though the cost of nannies in Australia is said to be prohibitive  – and the second is to have more men working flexible hours, to do their share of the childcare.

While I like Ms Hewson’s ideas of men role modelling work-life balance, I suspect that what will make the most difference to diversity in the workplace will be when organisations are legally required to report their gender make-up. As the UK is currently suggesting, voluntary targets may not be enough of a driver. As with many things, it may be a case of ‘what gets measured gets done’.


Women business owners value creativity and innovation during a downturn

9 Aug

Female entrepreneurs may avoid taking huge risks, but are willing to try out new ideas and approaches to growing their businesses, are creative during a downturn, and are in business for passion rather than money.

That’s according to the findings from the first PNC Women Business Owners Outlook, a survey carried out among 1300 women business owners in the US between 30 March and 11 May 2011 (ahead of the US losing its AAA credit rating).

Eight out of 10 of the business owners surveyed said they anticipated growth over the next two years – and only 7% said they planned to sell. The majority prefer to avoid risk, with just 39% willing to accept moderate risk to grow their businesses.

However, more than half (56%) said they would rely on new ways of doing things rather than sticking with what has worked in the past. While 62% rely on their own ideas, 45% would make a decision  using their intuition – with 55% preferring to take an analytical approach to their decisions.

Interestingly, just 22% said there were in it for the money, with 45% citing ‘passion for their business’ as a top reason for running their own company.

Beth Marcello, director of women’s business development at PNC Bank, said: “Creativity is paramount for a business to navigate through a down period. Our findings validate the value that women business owners place on creativity and innovation. Their willingness to try new ideas can result in new products or services, social media marketing tactics, or even expansion into international markets.”

What would the workplace look like if it were built for and by women?

7 Aug

Much has been said about women getting on in a man’s world – and often having to adopt more masculine behaviours and attitudes to survive and thrive in an environment that has been structured around a man’s way of doing things.

Of course, you can’t generalise about ‘male’ or ‘female’ leadership characteristics – and I’m not for one minute advocating all-women offices. However, I found this Delaware Online article on Why women find it hard to reach the top rung thought provoking. It asks what a company would look and feel like if it were built on women’s norms, rather than according to masculine norms.

Taking existing women-led companies, the article points to several patterns. It suggests that a company built for and by women would be more:

Nurturing: providing flexible policies around healthcare and retirement, for example.

Sensitive: not assuming (or saying) that a woman wouldn’t want a challenging job just because she had children, or might want them in the future.

Supportive: pointing to the face that men may get on in business through informal networks such as the golf course, to help create similarly supportive networking environments for women so they, too, can take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Focused: In a different article on Reuters, In business, a woman’s place is in the boardroom, it looks at patterns of behaviour in Norway, where there are quotas requiring 40% of the boardroom to be female. As a result, evidence suggests that women – dubbed the ‘diamond skirts’ are more focused during boardroom discussions, having done their homework beforehand.

Direct: I’m not saying women don’t have egos – I’ve worked with plenty who do – but I’m inclined to agree that women aren’t afraid to ask direct or difficult questions, because they want straight answers, and don’t feel they have to put quite so much attention on protecting their  ego.

In the UK, major companies have signed up to the 30% Club, an initiative to ensure more diversity on the boardroom. Not just for the sake of it, but because they believe a balanced board is ‘key to driving profitable growth – and positively influences a company’s culture and the decision-making process’. It has already committed to an Action Beyond Words programme on the basis that if change is going to happen then it will take companies, government and headhunters to work to make it happen.

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