Why Women Make Brilliant Entrepreneurs
There still simply aren’t enough women in business. I find this incredible but it remains the reality in boardrooms up and down the land. In my experience women make extraordinarily good business people. I employ around 10,000 people, of whom a high proportion are female, and it’s clear to me that recruiting and retaining the best women yields endless rewards: it saves money, increases motivation within the workforce, raises morale, and improves innovation.
Here’s why I believe women make good business people:
Females make 85% of all purchasing decisions – from groceries to cars to homes – so they tend to understand customers brilliantly. Companies that do not recruit women to high positions hugely underestimate this fact. By failing to do so they hold their businesses back.
Women are more inclined to use soft power than men, relying on dialogue and engagement to build trust and influence outcomes. Research has also shown that women are excellent mediators and place emphasis on building relationships, both of which are crucial in terms of staff and customer recruitment and retention.
Women are usually brilliant listeners, fantastic communicators and excellent networkers. They are very discussion orientated, which is ideal for managing employees and building relationships with customers. This trait also brings out the best in their teams and is perfect for building trust-filled relationships.
Women tend to only get involved in businesses they really believe in, so they are astute at activating passion in teams. Passion is one of the great leadership qualities – it is essential for winning hearts and minds, it makes you try harder, overcome knockbacks and, most importantly, it’s what gives your team belief.
The root cause
All this begs the question: why are women still lagging behind men in business? Early social conditioning certainly plays a role. Many girls start school as very confident people but that is often broken down, perhaps because female ‘bossiness’ is regarded as undesirable, while male ‘confidence’ is encouraged. At secondary school, girls are three-and-a-half times more likely to have lower self-esteem than boys; and by the time they are 12 they are extremely unlikely to ever want to become a leader because the idea is perceived negatively.
Probably as a result of this social conditioning, I have found that women regularly seek validation and generally underestimate their own abilities, even when they are performing brilliantly. At a recent meeting with Vince Cable I spoke with some exceptionally competent women who ran huge teams yet most admitted to suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’ at some point in their careers.
I am passionate about getting more women into business and making male-dominated boardrooms realise that they are holding their organisations back by failing to promote and recruit enough females. My message to chief executives and entrepreneurs is to take full advantage of the natural business strengths that women bring. And my message to female entrepreneurs and business leaders is that you deserve to be where you are and to progress even further.