Earlier this year, we sponsored and attended a networking event for AccelerateHER, a forum of leading businesses that support the development of women entering the UK business and tech sectors. At the event, we met a range of inspiring business leaders who gave us a taste of their working practices, and shared advice for women looking to make a mark in the rapidly changing UK tech scene.
Female representation in senior roles in FTSE 350 companies fell to a five-year low in 2016. While positions on FTSE 100 corporate boards held by women rose to 26% during the same period, there is still a lack of breadth to the gender balance among the UK’s big businesses. This figure, and the reasons behind it, need to be addressed.
The state of play
Firstly, we spoke to Debbie Wosskow OBE, CEO of Love Home Swap. We quizzed Debbie on what the current climate is for female business owners in the UK. Debbie explained that just 2.7% of capital invested in the UK goes to female-led businesses. Countering this, a Harvard Business study found that businesses with women in senior leadership roles generate an average 35% better returns than those without. This imbalance is something that stakeholders and decision makers might want to take heed of when considering future investments in UK businesses with few or no women in positions of seniority.
We also asked Debbie what sorts of challenges female entrepreneurs in the UK tech scene face nowadays, and why we aren’t seeing more women starting their own companies. Debbie broke it down to three core reasons:
- Skills – Female entrepreneurs need access to the resources and support to harness the skills necessary for starting their own businesses
- Networks – Developing relationships with others in the industry at events like AccelerateHER are a key aspect of helping to get a business off the ground
- Confidence – Lots of people have great ideas, but they need the self-belief to get themselves in front of investors and other interested parties. Again, this is where networking can play a fantastic role in kicking things off
Later we got the chance to chat to Sarah Wood, CEO of Unruly, and asked her opinion on the future of women in business. With infectious excitement, Sarah explained she is very optimistic about the future, telling us: “If you ask anyone in this room, they’ll tell you the same thing, because entrepreneurs by their very nature are optimistic! That positivity is what breeds confidence and drives success, so having that optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
We also asked Sarah how women entrepreneurs can support one another in the early stages of business development. In true entrepreneurial spirit, she explained: “We should be kind to each other. We should support each other. We should do business with each other!”
Also brimming with positivity over the future of women in business, Debbie Wosskow added her thoughts on why it is so important for women in business to network with each other. Perfectly capturing the mood of the day, Debbie told us: “Wonderful things happen when women get together in the room, and get together digitally. Events like this showcase wonderful women being brave, with the skills, the confidence and the network. We need to do that more, we need to do that bigger and we need to do that better.”
The conclusion: networking is key
Budding entrepreneurs, executives and anyone with an interest in promoting gender equality in business can help each other by connecting at these sorts of great events. By sharing experiences and opinions in a positive and proactive forum, female entrepreneurs can make themselves more visible and develop the contacts that can kickstart their business aspirations.
As the network of women in business grows, it will be more well equipped to combat the underlying issues behind the current level of gender inequality in top tier UK business. Initiatives like AccelerateHER are a really important part of the ongoing journey to get more women in executive positions and starting businesses, and TalkTalk Business is proud to be a part of this.
To find out more about AccelerateHER and to get involved with future networking events supporting women in UK business, visit: https://accelerateher.co/#/
To hear more from Sarah Wood and Debbie Wosskow at the AccelerateHER networking event, please visit our YouTube channel here and keep an eye on Twitter and Linkedin for more insight from great female leaders in the coming months.