#IWD2019 – Balance For Better

I have been waiting for #IWD2019 for a few months now. Not because it’s a day to celebrate women – although I’m obviously not going to moan about that – but because the company I work for, a huge bank called NatWest (you may know it…) released a report all about female entrepreneurship. It’s particularly important because we not only have a female Deputy CEO but Alison Rose is also CEO of our Commercial and Private Banking division – pretty impressive in my eyes.

Alison Rose was invited to lead a government review to find out why less women go into entrepreneurship and the findings were released yesterday on #IWD2019.

I’m going to share some of the findings but I wanted to share some of my experiences from working with entrepreneurs first – let’s see if there are similarities.

Firstly, the UK still runs on a 9-5 agenda. Primary care givers, from my experience, have been women. How are women expected to drop the kids off and get to where they need to be for the same start time? They can’t. So one is impacted. I won’t name the conference, as they definitely got stick for it on the day, but it was about making work, work for working women – it started at 9am and many females turned up late due to the school run. Enough said.

Secondly, funding. Many of the female entrepreneurs I work with can’t seem to access funding so investor networks put on events specifically focussed on females. But females don’t turn-up. Why? Because they are often put on at unfriendly times – early morning or late at night (I’m certainly guilty of this) but also they run them the same way – from my experience women don’t take risks the same way as men do but we are running events the way we always have – same speakers, same panels = same results (but we need a different result!)

In addition, human beings in general are attracted and more trusting of people they can resonate with yet the number of female investors out there are limited and the current pool of investors don’t seem to like investing in women (obviously not tarnishing everyone with the same brush here!) I have had two really sad examples of female entrepreneurs changing the way they went for funding simply because they were female and were coming up against barriers – one hid that she was pregnant and the other was open she was, put a plan in place but was accused of being irresponsible for getting pregnant when running a business.

Thirdly, confidence. I get so much stick with this one but I personally have experienced this recently. I would like to think I’m a confident individual – I’m happy to go into a network event and chat away, I’m happy to attend events on my own and I do like to voice my opinion (#sorrynotsorry). However, a few months ago I attended an event to promote entrepreneurship. I walked in to a sea of around 300 people – 90% male in black suits and 10% female. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and my confidence levels dropped. I spotted a colleague who helped me navigate the suits but when introduced they just weren’t interested in my opinion. Safe to say I didn’t stay until the end.

So, those are some of the barriers I think women face which stops them from going into entrepreneurship and / or growing their businesses; being the primary care giver, funding and confidence.

What were the barriers that came out of the report as to why only 1 in 3 entrepreneurs are women?

1. Low access and awareness of capital
2. Greater risk awareness
3. Perceived missing skills & experience
4. Disproportionate primary care responsibilities
5. Lack of relatable sponsorship/mentorship/role models

I did pretty good and when I ran a panel on promoting and supporting female entrepreneurship today – role models, confidence and primary care responsibilities came up top.

I certainly have lots to think about and work out what’s best for our entrepreneurs – but what are you going to do? Will you actively make decisions to bring in a balanced workforce. Provide flexible working maybe? Or even how you approach funding and what you disclose. Be bold because otherwise change won’t happen!