Encouraging women to the top

June O'Sullivan
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Were you a member of the local Wimmin's Group?

Ha, you laugh, what was all that about? What did we want: a job, a career, a voice, free childcare, equal pay?

Well, this week I attended a number of events about the same issues but with a 21st century twist. I was a guest at the @ForwardLadies awards lunch and was delighted to see my friend and fellow social entrepreneur Jenny Holloway from Fashion Enter win the Social Enterprise category.

The wonderful Michelle Wright from Cause 4, who invests in women becoming social entrepreneurs, received the Highly Commended place. The speech was given by Linda Plant who told her story from starting a hosiery stall aged 15  with her mother in Sheffield Market to her role on The Apprentice.

Earlier I met Servane Mouzan from Ogunte. Servane is a great supporter of women in social enterprise from across the world. She has built a Make a Wave, a series of incubator programmes to build a network of women social entrepreneurs across the world and is now building a means of helping women better understand the learning steps that leads to leadership transformation.

But why do we need to continue to push for women to get fully involved in business in 2016? Because gender balanced businesses are better all round. This is why I encourage men into childcare.

But it's also about how women build a succession plan for more women. Paul Hastings' Breaking the Glass Ceiling Report Cards continually proves the benefit of having women on Boards in terms of good business decisions and sustainability. A recent report in the Harvard Business Press by Sahil Raina (July 2016) found that the success of business growth and exit was much improved where women invested in other women. This is something we need to see much more. On a big scale there are organisations like Women Moving Millions. However, I count my membership on the CAN investment Board as small progress given that we are in the unusual position of women constituting half of the Investment Board.

If you are a woman who also happens to be an entrepreneur or an aspiring entrepreneur, you could do worse than consider Linda Plant's advice:

  •     Have a vision
  •     Walk before you can run
  •     Recognise and take opportunities, they won't come to you
  •     Be sensible
  •     Trust your instincts
  •     Stay ahead of the game
  •     See the future - be connected
  •     Build a team
  •     Stay passionate and driven
  •     Remember that success doesn't come with a banner

So, the state of play for women in business is that it has moved on since the 1970s but that was 40 years ago! I remember my children saying to me, "Mummy, we are doing history in school, we are studying the 60s". My, did I feel old but perked up with the retort, "ah, modern history!"  Let's avoid having a similar conversation with our granddaughters.

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