Furthermore, during the same period there was an increase in the number of women-owned businesses in the 1-9 and 10-49 employment size categories.
The idea that women do not make good entrepreneurs is countered by various facts, such as: "Research by Barclays Bank has revealed there are today nearly a third more women entrepreneurs than there were in 2000,...there are now 150,000 women-run enterprises across the UK, with the south west leading the way nationally."
Women as Entrepreneurs
There have been many cases of extremely successful female entrepreneurs at almost every level of business. A prime example is the success of Liliane Bettencourt, who is one of wealthiest people in France. She inherited a controlling stake in L'Oreal in 1957. Another successful entrepreneur is Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop. Her beginnings were small and not without struggle. However, she used her business and marketing skills to build an enormously successful business almost from scratch, packaging her cosmetic products in her garage. It is also noteworthy that when she considered opening a second shop in Chichester, she was turned down for an $8,000 loan at the bank. An important aspect is that part of her marketing style was to avoid the exploitation of women in the cosmetic industry.
A hate the beauty business. It is a monster industry selling unattainable dreams. It lies. It cheats. It exploits women" (Graham, 479). This mind set lead Anita and Gordon to the development of the unique philosophy of the Body Shop. Their purpose was to create profits with principles. Not only did they want to make profits, they wanted to create social and environmental change.
The Body Shop has grown from a small alternative store in England to a multi-national company with 1,366 stores in 46 countries.
Roddick is a perfect example of just how successful women can be in business; she was also one of the five wealthiest women in the UK in 1993. She has received numerous awards, including being named London's Business Woman of the Year in 1985 and awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1988.
4. Factors in the advancement or retardation of women entrepreneurs
One of the central factors that have impeded the development of female entrepreneurship is the perception that women are not as good at running a business as men. This perception however is belied by the facts. For example in 2003 there was an increase of 27 per cent in the number of women who felt they had the skills to start a business compared with 2001. In spite of this however female businesses still have lower turnovers than their male counterparts.
Dr Eleanor Shaw of Strathclyde University underlines this fact by pointing out that one of the major obstacles to female entrepreneurship is the negative experiences and prejudice that they often are subjected to in the market. "Most women hold low-paid, unskilled or semi-skilled positions; women earn on average 72% of male earnings and only 10% of the UK's 200 largest companies have female board members. Women's experiences of the labour market are a major constraint on their ability to set up their own businesses."
Industry Minister Jacqui Smith has stated that despite the figures indicating an increasing number of women entrepreneurs "there is still a vast wealth of untapped talent and economic opportunity among women in the UK. "
There are numerous reports of gender discrimination, particularly when it comes to financing new or growing business concerns. This also includes sexual stereotyping from financial institutions like banks. The question also arises as to whether women are receiving enough support from official levels. A study published this month by the British Chambers of Commerce states that the UK has a poor record in encouraging women in entrepreneurship.
Fewer than 4 women in 100 in the UK are starting businesses, while twice as many take the plunge in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Entrepreneurial British women are held back by the lack of role models, managerial experience, affordable childcare, business skills and access to finance.
One of the main factors that militate against women launching their own business concerns is lack of access to the necessary capital. According to IBM-sponsored research, published by Strathclyde University in collaboration with the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, there are specific problem areas in terms of the financing process. This is especially the case with "raising start-up finance and using guarantees to support external finance as well as obtaining adequate on-going finance."
Another area that was pointed out was the development of effective relationships with bankers; "recent research has sought to determine if banks operate unwitting or deliberate differential lending policies with respect to female borrowers."
In general, the research showed that there are real differences between the genders with respect to start-up and ongoing finance and that this has a negative effect on the development of women-owned businesses. On the other hand, there are also positive aspects and the study indicates that there are many areas of similarity with respect to financing and there does not appear to be any direct discrimination against women when refusing a request for finance." major factor that is seen as holding women back in entrepreneurship is the inequitable working conditions and bias towards the male in the business environment. New research indicates that "starting a business is still more challenging for women than men thanks to long-ignored barriers such as poor child care and inappropriate business support services."
Another important reason for the difficulty that women experience in starting their own business is the problem of balancing domestic time constraints and the demands of running a business.
Pros and cons
While it is often a perception that women cannot be good entrepreneurs due to the pressures of family and home life, studies in fact indicate the opposite. They state that female entrepreneurs are in fact very flexible and adequately manage to balance the various components of their lives. "... women consider increased flexibility (54% against 35%) and a greater ability to balance professional accomplishments and family responsibilities (40% compared with 22%) to be an additional attraction of entrepreneurship."
Research proves that women in fact make better entrepreneurs than men. They are less liable to incur debt and are more independent of banks and funding institutions. They are also more inclined towards achievement. Studies indicate that women are more open to further training and development in the latest technologies.
The percentage of personal savings used to finance business start-up's is significantly higher amongst women (80-99%) than men (30-59%), and women business-owners are currently less likely than men to have used either bank overdrafts or a business loan over the past year. The research also finds women entrepreneurs eager for business education and technology training. They are quick to recognize the importance of business knowledge in the execution of any successful business plan, and the need for up-to-the-minute it skills to compete in an ever-increasing technology-based business environment.
There is a growing realization that more must be done to not only alter perceptions about the ability of women to become entrepreneurs in the UK, but also to physically and directly help women in this process. To this end the government has developed a number of strategies and policy initiatives to remedy the situation. These include,
Encouraging more role models to come forward. A lack of role models is often cited as one of the reasons too few young women start businesses.
Initiating the Small Business Service Action Plan to help women entrepreneurs gain access to finance. Experience shows that this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to start up's.
Setting up a new women's enterprise panel of successful female entrepreneurs to look at the options for a Women's Business Council to champion female entrepreneurship. PROWESS has been one of the key drivers behind this initiative.
These initiatives indicate the very opposite of the perception that women are not capable of being good entrepreneurs. However, the bottom line in any discussion of the pros and cons involved in female entrepreneurship is focused on gender issues and discrimination. "... It was shown that gender can be extremely important in the experience of ownership and management in small business. Further research should not focus on a simple dichotomy of male and female, but should look instead at gender within and across categories of ownership and co-ownership."
There are numerous examples that prove women are as capable as men in starting and running a successful business; as well as some reports that claim many women in fact do a better job than their male counterparts. One of the strongest indications of success and recognition amongst female entrepreneurs is the increasing availability of opportunities to assist the development of female entrepreneurs in the UK. One of the reasons for this increased attention is the realization that women entrepreneurs are being recognized as an integral part of the national economy.…