Building a successful, sustainable business can be highly rewarding, but it isn’t easy – long hours, total dedication and a cool head are just the starting point. But for women entrepreneurs, success often comes with additional challenges.
There is a disparity between the experiences of male and female entrepreneurs, according to the UK government-backed report Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, leaving a large part of the UK’s economic potential untapped.
Women do not lack ability or ambition, says the report, yet only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is female: a gender gap equivalent to 1.1 million missing businesses.
Even then, women-led businesses clustered in education, health, food and accommodation, according to the Women as Entrepreneurs in the UK - Closing the Gaps report by Enders Analysis.
Key to closing the gap is ensuring that women have access to the advice and support they need to fully develop their entrepreneurial skills, and support to scale up their enterprises.
“The watchwords are: be or go digital, break the back of financing, look to scale up and connect to each other for help, support and solidarity,” Clair Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, said of the report’s findings on how women entrepreneurs can speed up their development.
Driving female businesses forward
At a recent virtual event called ‘Good Growth: Unlocking the Power of Digital for Women Entrepreneurs’, women entrepreneurs identified securing funding, having the confidence to launch a business, maintaining wellbeing and driving sales and marketing as some of the key challenges they face when looking to launch or scale a business.
Lockdown restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have added to the pressures on women business owners, as the burden of care for family members falls largely on female shoulders.
Sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in partnership with Google, Enders Analysis, Founders4Schools and others, Good Growth supports women-led businesses in the UK by addressing common challenges.
“It provides a safe platform for women entrepreneurs, at whatever stage of their own development, to come together, share knowledge, best practice and understanding, and gain access to the digital tools and support that will help drive success in these challenging times,” says Jennifer Stanzl, Head of Talent Management, UK and Ireland at TCS.
A mix of expert speakers, one-to-one mentoring and virtual workrooms allow the event organizers to support and emphasize the community of female business owners. From start-ups to scale-ups, a variety of different types of women-led businesses were able to access corporate know-how and digital tools to foster business growth.
“The Good Growth initiative and community provide a vital sounding board, a support mechanism, and a platform, to encourage and showcase possibilities that women can apply to themselves and their businesses. In line with TCS’ commitment to give back to communities, this initiative brings together diversity, inclusion and the economic growth of the community at large by facilitating channels to stimulate and grow women-led businesses.” says Priyanka Sethi, Head of Sales, Education, Media and Information Services, UK&I
It’s a way of helping female entrepreneurs generate more investment, build much-needed support networks and develop the digital skills required to thrive in an increasingly technical global marketplace.
As well as bringing expertise to the community, events like this also showcase new ideas and business activities that are emerging − some with potential for the event sponsors to foster new partnerships. It’s an opportunity for everyone involved to identify ways to help each other, at both an individual and organizational level.
“As a global organization in the technology sector, we understand how vital it is to help foster innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and generate start-up activities for new businesses. And we want to be a part of that, rather than being apart from it,” explains Lisa Gates, Head of Legal, UK and Ireland at TCS and a speaker at the event.
For sponsors, the event is an opportunity to support the local community.
Upscaling the digital skills of women entrepreneurs fits into the company’s wider culture of diversity and inclusion. There is also synergy with TCS’ COIN initiative, which provides support for a network of start-ups.
As part of a long-term commitment, TCS will be hosting quarterly events and creating a platform to host an online community to connect, support and empower women entrepreneurs.
“We want to bring all of the women entrepreneurs and all of our networks across the UK together to help them digitally upskill,” explains Stanzl. The new platform will host webinars, learning sessions, mentoring opportunities, content and resources, which leverage the sponsors’ expertise, and provide a place for women entrepreneurs to make new connections, and build the support networks that are vital to business success.
“So we can plug in our marketing experts, we can plug in our sales experts, we can invite women entrepreneurs to our leadership sessions that they might never have access to,” says Stanzl.
The platform will also allow entrepreneurs to mentor and support each other, make introductions and share learnings gained from real-world experience. The power of belonging to a supportive community shouldn’t be underestimated, especially for the next generation of female entrepreneurs. “I hope that the 200 girls from secondary school and university who joined us at Good Growth understood that although maths and STEM help you to get a high-impact leadership position, it is your community that sustains you,” explains Sherry Coutu, Founder and Chair of Founders4Schools, and a role model for the next generation of aspiring business women.