Marching for the working woman

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“London is the worst place to live in the UK if you’re a woman, according to a report that reveals that women are less likely to work, earn less than men when they do, and are more likely to be sexually assaulted in the capital than anywhere else”.

This damning report was carried out by Fawcett in 2013 and also revealed that the gap between men and women was set to widen.

That report was carried out four years ago today, and, in the wake of the recent global marches fighting for women’s rights, there may be a glimmer of hope that matters could change more quickly than we hoped. Has the beginning of the reign of Trump acted as an unexpected catalyst for radical change? Have eyes been widened to the plight of mankind, and particularly that of the female gender? As the world watched Trump and six of his suited male colleagues reinstate the ‘global gag rule’ on the right for an abortion, it would be fair to surmise that the vast majority of women, regardless of her views, recoiled at the lack of female representation and a dark fear of days to come. It’s  not all doom and gloom though – Trump’s rapid rise to power has acted like a global defibrillator, literally shocking armchair activists into action.

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ENTREPRENEURIAL WOMEN IN THE UK

When it comes to the UK workforce, The Women And Work Commission found that unleashing women’s full potential could be worth £23 billion a year to the Exchequer, but if today’s figures don’t inspire the energy of inter-business changemakers – we know that real stories do.

Have the women’s marches around the world brought to light some equality issues in your workplace? Have you noted or experienced women having a harder time than their male counterparts? Evidence shows us that women begin their careers as equals with men, but fall down with every career advancement. By the time you get to board level, you’ll find under 30% of female directors and today a shocking 6% of female FTSE 100 CEOs.

Why is there such a stark difference between the genders? Cultural bias and discrimination have done their bit to limit the number of female role models in business, but perhaps this is just starting to even out. Matt Smith, Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurs is optimistic for the present and future of women not just IN the workplace, but for those building new workplaces. He sees women in the current phase as “playing catch up” with their male counterparts.

The fact remains that often women and men have different motivations for launching businesses, which influences how many are being set up, and how fast they grow. As a general rule, men and women will approach business with different agendas. Multiple surveys have shown that men are inspired by wealth and responsibility whereas women often seek to carve out lifestyle careers that allow them them to juggle a successful work, family and life balance. Every new initiative that equalises men and women helps to improve harmony in these conflicting agendas, from what to wear at work to allowing extended paternity leave.

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GET WOMEN IN BUSINESS FUNDED

38% of serial entrepreneurs under 35 are female, according to a report from Coutts. They make up just 19% of serial entrepreneurs and they start both fewer and smaller companies than men. Why? The biggest hurdle is actually a lack of funding opportunities – exacerbated by the fact that the vast majority of investors are men.

According to a CrunchBase report, just 10% of global VCs between 2010 and 2015 funded startups with at least one female founder. Meanwhile, in the UK just 14% of angel investors are women.

BOOSTING CONFIDENCE VIA SUPPORT

“Having been in top leadership roles for over 10 years, I have definitely seen a bias, particularly when women are not satisfied with results. They will often be labelled aggressive or even hysterical. When in situations of conflict, we naturally feel threatened and thus, our biases get accentuated. However I have also seen many women (including myself) leverage our feminine side, and lower numbers in top management, to our advantage. It’s neither black or white.’ Anne de Kerckhove, CEO of Iron

Boosting women’s confidence in themselves whether in the workplace or setting up on their own is a great challenge. In an entrepreneurial capacity, women appear to be less likely to ask for financing and that results in them receiving less. At least, that’s the view of Debbie Wosskow, founder and CEO of Love Home Swap, and Anna Jones, CEO at Hearst Magazines UK. These two entrepreneurs are tackling the issue of low confidence through AllBright – their new funding platform just for women.

AllBright includes an angel network, a crowdfunding platform and learning resources through its AllBright academy –  it is shouting out to women to come there for investment, advice and ongoing support.

Depleted confidence is rife. Many women suffer from it at work, particularly as they climb higher up the career ladder. Women need more encouragement, and it is up to their male colleagues to help supply it. Does your workplace foster the spirit of the ‘manbassador’?

GET YOUR BUSINESS TO LEAD ON EQUALITY

The women’s march has done so much to bring these and other pressing and life-changing issues to light and to life. Economic equality and inclusiveness are central to the movement as well as pushing for greater diversity – especially in the tech industry where the gender imbalance is most embarrassing. This weekend’s massive demonstrations should give hope to all of us about positive change for women in work and outside of work.

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But women can’t empower women without involving men. Gender inclusiveness and all its positive connotations involves encouraging men to be agents of change. Thankfully today many are as bothered by the glass ceiling as women.

Most companies are still run by men and their leadership and partnership is needed in order to find solutions. Women want to be equal to men, they don’t want to BE men. What can your workplace do to encourage resolution of the huge equality issue?