Last week we welcomed over 100 business women to the second Women’s Enterprise Day #WED_EM16. The event was once again held in the splendid Belton Woods Hotel and we were all thoroughly spoiled – by the speakers as well as the food. Delegates at the Global Entrepreneurship Week event were encouraged to make the most of the packed day, which featured six high-flying speakers, nine special workshops, a “living library” of experts, artisan trade stands, networking and lunch.
Keynote speaker Lincolnshire Co-op Chief Executive Officer Ursula Lidbetter MBE, who was recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Lincolnshire Business Awards kicked-off an inspirational day.
Ursula shared her impressive career journey and spoke about Earning Respect and Getting Success in the Commercial World. In addition to her role with the successful county retailer, Ursula chairs Lincoln Business Group, Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership and is a county Deputy Lord Lieutenant. Her talk outlined the skills and strengths required to be a successful business woman, including not being afraid to speak up, knowing your facts and asking the awkward questions. She also admitted that everyone experiences a crisis of confidence at times and the only way to overcome those feelings is to project confidence, even if you don’t feel it.
After the opening session the delegates chose to attend a diverse range of workshops and inspirational speakers, but just as importantly they were able to spend time networking and chatting with each other, sharing stories and promoting their businesses. There was a really fantastic energy to the day; everyone was relaxed, open to learning from their peers and happy to be investing the time in themselves.
I was asked on the day by Ursula why I thought we needed a separate women’s event and support for female entrepreneurs at the start of their business journey. I know there is a push for equality and that the generic business support is open to all, but the point of days like this and our project Succeeding Together, which is supporting economically inactive women back into work or self-employment, is that at times women need a bit more encouragement to feel confident in themselves and that doesn’t always happen in mixed groups.
Women face certain issues more frequently than men and need different practical support. A recent report by the Federation of Small found that the key challenges facing business women included balancing work and family life (40%), achieving credibility for the business (37%) and a lack of confidence (22%). All of which are limiting women’s ability to start, run and grow their businesses, ‘Women in Enterprise: The Untapped Potential’.
These are not generally the same issues facing male entrepreneurs, you don’t very often hear a man say that he is struggling to find a child minder or do the dishes, nor do you hear them cite a lack of confidence as stopping them from fulfilling their business dreams. I know this is not the same as men never experiencing a lack of confidence, but I also know that for many women it is a real and persistent problem. It has also been shown that women can provide very inspiring role models to other women, something the BBC has picked up in the recent publication of its 100 inspirational and influential women for 2016 and is the reason why we have chosen to find local successful business women to provide role models at our event.
Providing a tailored and supportive approach to encouraging women into business could have positive outcomes not just for those women themselves; it has also been estimated that if women were setting up and running new businesses at the same rate as men, we could have an extra one million female entrepreneurs. They are currently only half as likely to do this, and they and the economy pays the price. In addition by equalising the labour force participation rates of men and women, the UK could further increase GDP per capita growth by 0.5 percentage points per year, with potential gains of 10% of GDP by 2030. Women’s Business Council 2013.
The Community Lincs’ Women’s Enterprise Day and the Succeeding Together project are our contribution to shifting the balance and helping more women forge successful business futures for themselves. There is plenty more that could be done, but for now we will content ourselves with a successful annual event and a small scale support project, but you know that the quiet revolution has begun.
Excellent workshop by Sanjaya Pandit #WED_EM16 really made you think