Small Business Saturday Blog

How we should champion success for International Women's Day

Saturday, March 02, 2019 at 14:54

With International Women’s Day this week (8thMarch 2019), the discrimination or otherwise of women in business is a hottopic.
We are seeing a growing cohort of female-led businesses thatis stretching its wings and finding its power. This can only be a good stepforward!
Although the increased focus on female entrepreneurs fromthe British Business Bank and the Treasury is to be applauded, I can’t helpbut notice that the picture is incomplete. Are we missing the point a little bymeasuring female businesses by old standards that don’t always apply any more?
Should we instead be celebrating the businesses beingsuccessful in different ways, because they have redefined what success is?
At f:Entrepreneur, the 100 businesses being celebrated aheadof International Women’s Day are doing justthat – redefining what it means to be an entrepreneur. And a message is ringingout loud and clear – your rules do not apply to me. The view of a successfulentrepreneur starting with a business plan, getting funding high growth,investment, scale and eventual exit is alien to many female founders.
The most common answer I get when asking female founderswhy they started their business is freedom – I started because I wantedfreedom: freedom from bosses, from out-dated expectations, to manage my life,to make decisions unimpeded. A big part of this is a sense of control. Withoutgoing into a history of women in business, it is not a stretch to point outthat women controlling their careers and own companies is a relatively recentphenomenon in the grand scheme of things. So it should be unsurprising thatmany do not relish the idea of taking on the “burden” of debt or giving awayequity as it can translate into less control.
This is not saying that there should not be moreinvestment in female-led businesses – there absolutely should. And investorscan expect strong returns off the back of it.But there should be a broader definition of success for a 21st Centuryentrepreneur – and recognising that success can mean many things.
If a business has decided to grow organically and nottake on investment, applaud them for the work they are achieving, don’t beratethem for their slower growth rate. If businesses are creating opportunities forother women, a key common driver for women-led businesses, do not mark themdown for lower productivity due to a larger workforce, applaud theiropportunity creation and that they are lifting up those around them.
And let’s be very careful not to put female-ledbusinesses into a bucket of “lifestyle” business because they are not followinga start-up / scale trajectory. This is derogatory and undermines the hardwork, long hours and passion put into these businesses.
Let’s instead celebrate the new ways of working we arenow seeing and shout about their worth. Let’s celebrate the job creation, theinnovation; let’s celebrate the increased social conscience; let’s highlightthe benefits of freedom and flexibility; and let’s demonstrate how thesebusinesses are bringing value into the economy.
I am not going to tell phenomenal women I see every daythat they are somehow falling short because they don’t succeed on a set ofmetrics that really do not apply to them.
I am going to tell them they are amazing. They areinspiring. They are role models for both men and women and their value farexceeds their P&L or Balance Sheet. I am going to thank them for theirbravery in going it alone and celebrate the freedom and control this nowaffords them.
What better way to celebrate InternationalWomen’s Day 2019?
About the Author: Michelle Ovens MBE is Director of Small Business Saturday


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