03 Mar IWD: Simply Business launches exclusive mentoring session with Karren Brady for female entrepreneurs
Today, one of the UK’s largest small business insurance providers, Simply Business, is launching an exclusive one-on-one mentoring session for female entrepreneurs with Baroness Karren Brady CBE.
The initiative, launched to mark International Women’s Day, will see one female entrepreneur win an hour-long, one-on-one mentoring session with British business executive and The Apprentice star Karren Brady CBE. The Empowering Women in Business initiative has been launched to help female entrepreneurs overcome sexism and gender bias in business, and improve their skills and confidence as business owners. Entries are open until 31 March and business owners can sign up here.
It comes as a new study by Simply Business reveals one in three (32%) female entrepreneurs have experienced sexism as a business owner, while one in five (19%) have also experienced gender inequality and unequal access to opportunities.
Overall, a staggering 91% of female entrepreneurs say gender bias and inequality is prevalent in business, with a third (33%) describing it as ‘widespread’ or ‘severe’.
To better support female business owners, over a third (38%) called for more one-to-one mentorship from a business expert, alongside support and advice with funding (37%). A further third (33%) called for more tips and advice from female leaders in their industry and two in five (41%) female business owners called for the opportunity to network with other women business owners. Simply Business has set up the The Empowering Women in Business initiative to help answer these challenges.
Entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners can also sign up to a free webinar by Simply Business, which will feature a talk from Karren Brady on 17 March. Attendees will hear about the barriers facing women in business, first-hand experience from inspiring business leaders, and how society needs to adapt so businesses can work for everyone.
Experiences of sexism and gender bias in business
As a deep dive into experiences of sexism and gender bias in business, the study by Simply Business revealed over a fifth (22%) of female entrepreneurs have faced investors, colleagues, or customers making quick assumptions about them, or underestimating them when compared to their male counterparts.
One in five (20%) also don’t feel they’re taken seriously compared to males in their industry, and nearly a fifth (15%) of female entrepreneurs don’t feel they have a loud enough voice, or aren’t heard enough compared to men.
What’s more, a fifth (16%) state they’re not taken as seriously when pitching their product or business, and one in 10 (8%) don’t have access to the same networks or mentors as men.
Overall, this has led to a quarter (25%) of female entrepreneurs struggling with confidence in business.
Baroness Karren Brady CBE, ambassador for Simply Business, comments: “The level of gender bias and inequality within business, particularly within the small business landscape, is astounding. Sexism and bias, whether conscious or unconscious, will erode confidence over time and lead to unequal opportunities. It’s vital we challenge sexism and bias, and equip female entrepreneurs with the tools, access and confidence to overcome these obstacles. We need to inspire women into business, not bring them down.”
Female entrepreneurs and business owners have experienced gender bias and sexism across all industries and regions of the UK.
Jenny, who works in Leisure and Tourism in North West England shared her experience:”Unlike many other types of inequality with business, reporting bias within these interactions is unmeasured and therefore unseen. Even at times when I’ve been included, my voice has not been valued compared to my male counterparts and I’ve had my ideas stolen or attributed to a man.”
Samantha Small, owner of Mother Shipton Inn pub and restaurant in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire added: “As a woman who both heads a busy kitchen and runs the business as a whole, it still astounds me how many people will direct comments or business advice to my male partner. Everything from oven repairs to new suppliers. It’s a bug bear, but unfortunately, something that I’ve had to learn to deal with.”
Improving gender equality in business
Well over two fifths (45%) of female entrepreneurs feel more people overall need to call out gender bias or inequality as it happens, to help improve the sheer level of bias widespread across industries.
Furthermore, 43% are calling for greater exposure and education on the issue, for all people in business regardless of gender. Two in five (39%) state unconscious gender bias training throughout all businesses is needed, alongside more equal benefits (e.g. equal maternity and paternity pay) throughout the business landscape.
A further 37% of women business owners want dedicated female business and investor programmes, and a third (34%) state there needs to be greater access to support for funding, mentorship and networks.
Sarina Stokes, Head of Operations at BFG Print Ltd, a print and design business based in Shoreham, shared her challenges: “I have not felt confident giving myself the title of business owner as I know most people associate business ownership as a male-dominated area. I call myself head of operations as I know many people do not think a female could own a company.”
Advice and confidence
Despite the challenges, 96% of female entrepreneurs would recommend starting a business to other women. Within this, a third (32%) continue to describe it as rewarding.
When looking at business trajectory among female entrepreneurs, 92% remain confident about the next 12 months, with two in five (40%) feeling ‘very’ confident.
Baroness Karren Brady CBE, ambassador for Simply Business, added: “We need to harness the talents, ambitions and drive of women, at any business, big or small. I’m proud to partner with Simply Business to shine a light on sexism and bias in business – it’s an ongoing challenge we need to resolve. Supporting and mentoring one female entrepreneur, and giving them the skills and tools they need to flourish, is a positive step forward in this journey.”