Small Business Saturday Blog

How we should champion success for International Women's Day

Saturday, March 02 at 14:54

With International Women’s Day this week (8thMarch 2019), the discrimination or otherwise of women in business is a hot topic.
We are seeing a growing cohort of female-led businesses that is stretching its wings and finding its power. This can only be a good step forward!
Although the increased focus on female entrepreneurs from the British Business Bank and the Treasury is to be applauded, I can’t help but notice that the picture is incomplete. Are we missing the point a little by measuring female businesses by old standards that don’t always apply any more?
Should we instead be celebrating the businesses being successful in different ways, because they have redefined what success is?
At f:Entrepreneur, the 100 businesses being celebrated ahead of International Women’s Day are doing just that – redefining what it means to be an entrepreneur. And a message is ringing out loud and clear – your rules do not apply to me. The view of a successful entrepreneur 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 founders why they started their business is freedom – I started because I wanted freedom: 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. Without going into a history of women in business, it is not a stretch to point out that women controlling their careers and own companies is a relatively recent phenomenon in the grand scheme of things. So it should be unsurprising that many do not relish the idea of taking on the “burden” of debt or giving away equity as it can translate into less control.
This is not saying that there should not be more investment in female-led businesses – there absolutely should. And investors can expect strong returns off the back of it. But there should be a broader definition of success for a 21st Century entrepreneur – and recognising that success can mean many things.
If a business has decided to grow organically and not take on investment, applaud them for the work they are achieving, don’t berate them for their slower growth rate. If businesses are creating opportunities for other women, a key common driver for women-led businesses, do not mark them down for lower productivity due to a larger workforce, applaud their opportunity creation and that they are lifting up those around them.
And let’s be very careful not to put female-led businesses into a bucket of “lifestyle” business because they are not following a start-up / scale trajectory. This is derogatory and undermines the hard work, long hours and passion put into these businesses.
Let’s instead celebrate the new ways of working we are now seeing and shout about their worth. Let’s celebrate the job creation, the innovation; let’s celebrate the increased social conscience; let’s highlight the benefits of freedom and flexibility; and let’s demonstrate how these businesses are bringing value into the economy.
I am not going to tell phenomenal women I see every day that they are somehow falling short because they don’t succeed on a set of metrics that really do not apply to them.
I am going to tell them they are amazing. They are inspiring. They are role models for both men and women and their value far exceeds their P&L or Balance Sheet. I am going to thank them for their bravery in going it alone and celebrate the freedom and control this now affords them.
What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019?
About the Author: Michelle Ovens MBE is Director of Small Business Saturday

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