I was asked the other day if I would ever consider going into schools and talking about running a business because children tend to have a lack of female business owners as role models, apparently children are still often brought up to believe that certain jobs are more appropriate for males and females. This is not something that I had ever considered or that I previously thought there was a need for. I'm a woman and a business owner so why wouldn't other girls think they could do the same? I have never considered owning a business as a woman was particularly unusual but perhaps I was wrong.
According to a Forbes article published in September 2018 there are twice as many male entrepreneurs in the UK than female, despite the fact that there are close to one million more women making up the population. The article went on to say that research published by the Unilever Foundry found female entrepreneurs often felt they were underestimated and stereotyped. These are both things that I have certainly experienced and continue to experience after seven years as a business owner. Prejudice in the business sector from money lenders was also mentioned as an issue, along with lack of female role models. The role models we have are from unrealistic TV shows like The Apprentice and I think we can throw Dragons Den in there too as when I think of female entrepreneur role models that's my go to, with Deborah Meaden and Kelly Hoppen in the lead and Karen Brady and Hilary Devey to follow.
All of these women present themselves in the same manner, tough, serious and unwaveringly professional. I have to ask if this is what it takes to be taken seriously as a female entrepreneur? I am reasonably young and sound younger on the phone, I am blonde, dress casually and I do not have a corporate demeanour, in fact I prefer to conduct business in a relaxed and friendly manor. I find myself frequently patronised and underestimated but feel very reluctant to change my appearance and attitude to be taken seriously. Why should I? Would a man have to?
I was brought up in a traditional household. My father was a business owner and the main breadwinner, my mother was a teacher and chiefly in charge of childcare. This didn't stop me from believing I could be whatever I wanted to be, I was always taught to do what made me happy. Even when I was setting up my business in 2011 it didn't cross my mind that being female would ever have any effect whatsoever. And on the whole I wouldn't say it has to be honest, it hasn't held me back but it does get frustrating and I would prefer it if I wasn't up against prejudiced almost every day. So perhaps the idea of teaching our children that they can be whatever they want to be, regardless of gender, isn't such a bad idea.