How to encourage girls to consider working for themselves
Business is a man’s world. The language used, the rhetoric, even the way we do business – it’s all very male-led. I guess that’s probably not much of a surprise given that, back in the day (and even in some cases still today!) women were expected to be the homemaker and men were the ones going out and bringing in what was needed to keep the family going.
However, times have – broadly – changed and we need to examine how we can not only make business more female-friendly but then encourage young women to consider going that one step further, and starting to work for themselves.
One of the key things that I’ve found both through my work with Operation Enterprise and now, specifically, through The Juno Project www.thejunoproject.com is that girls just don’t think they have the confidence to start, let alone run, their own business. They reel out reason after reason for why they can’t be successful yet ignore the fabulous skills they possess; both developed and inherent. They say that they wouldn’t know where to start yet, in my experience, once they are pointed in the right direction women write much better, more detailed and thought-through business plans than men. That they wouldn’t be able to present their business to someone else yet, once they’ve had a little coaching, they give awesome presentations – full of passion, excitement and demonstrating a clear vision.
I will go one, controversial, step further and say that in my opinion women have the potential to make better entrepreneurs than men. They are extra-thorough in their planning, covering the detail that men often leave out. They take their time before deciding to start up, being clear that they can make the business work – when men would generally just jump in and give it a go. Women aren’t always risk averse, often just risk savvy. However, us girls can take sometimes take caution a little too far and wait for the right market conditions, the right time in our lives, the right this or that – and sometimes we do need to take a leaf out of the men’s world and jump in. Too much caution isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Colleges have a part to play in this. Encourage the girls and women in your establishment to get involved in some entrepreneurships activity – whether it’s listening to a speaker, attending a workshop, or even discussing working for yourself in class. Be aware that women and men see this world differently, so having an equal male/female split in sessions is important. Don’t expect girls to come to a heavily male event – they probably won’t. And if they do, they won’t be as engaged as you might like.
Run sessions just for the ladies. It works! The passion and enthusiasm will be palpable.
Find some local female business owners and ask them to come in and talk to your students. Get a group together and ask them who, in the public eye, inspires them – and make contact. You might just be surprised at the response. Design posters of female role models and put them up around college.
Current stats show that just 19% of businesses are majority female-run. If women started businesses as much as men do, we’d have an extra 1m of them. We can’t ignore that. We need to start the change, and FE is the perfect place in which to do it.