Women Mean Business
Women Mean Business
In March 2018 The Telegraph launched a campaign to take action against the distinct gender inequality challenges faced by UK women in business, and in particular the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs seeking funding. Aptly named, Women Mean Business is an ongoing campaign that seeks to disrupt the UK’s business culture that continually overlooks the lack of opportunity and funding for women starting their own businesses. This campaign began with an open letter to the Secretaries of State to recognise the issues faced by women in business and asked for a call to action. Signed by 200 business leaders, entrepreneurs, MP’s and academics, including UKBAA CEO, Jenny Tooth OBE, 200 women stood behind the sentiment of this letter that stated, “We are deeply concerned that some entrepreneurs – predominantly female – in Britain are being held back unfairly. Today, we are calling on you to take measures to help close the funding gap that prevents many women from starting their own businesses.”
As the campaign unfolded distinct steps were taken by the government to review the undeniable challenges women face and identify actionable steps to begin balancing the scales. One of the significant measures taken was the pledge of a £400,000.00 innovation grant to female entrepreneurs offering solutions to the UK’s industrial challenges from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy through Innovate UK’s Industrial Strategy Challenge.
In addition to many noteworthy steps taken in the right direction, The Telegraph hosted the first Women Mean Business Live summit on 31 October, drawing together women from across Britain to hear from industry leaders on a range of viewpoints shining light on what boundaries women face and how we can work together to open the doors to change.
The day welcomed guest speakers in the form of panels, fireside chats and a key note address, all identifying many of the roadblocks females face, including those that are generally brushed under the rug. We heard from Jill Pay who was the first woman in the UK to hold the role of Sergeant in Arms at the House of Commons, speaking about her rise to the top of a heavily male-dominated industry and her efforts to mentor females to bond together to empower each other and succeed. We also heard from Nuala Walsh, Vice Chair of UN Women and Brenda Trenowden CBE, Global Chair of 30% Club and Head of FIG Europe ANZ on a panel discussion that explored navigating the corporate and entrepreneurial world, and how to know when to persevere and push forward and when to exit and move on. The panel looked at how we can actively remove gender stereotypes and make impactful changes, noting that for meaningful change we need to look to our CEO’s first – to welcome a new culture of thinking around gender roles in the workplace, change starts at the top of the house.
Our very own Jenny Tooth took the stage to provide her insights on a panel discussing entrepreneurship in the UK and how backing more women founders will drastically impact the UK economy. Jenny was joined by Francesca Warner, Cofounder of Diversity VC, Lara Morgan – Entrepreneur and Angel Investor and Tom Fleming, Partner at Venrex to look at why more women aren’t coming forward for investment and how some of the lack of investment in women founders is influenced by the low number of women angel investors in the UK. Jenny noted, “The investor base needs to diversify. The makeup of the investment community is largely male and at times can be incredibly intimidating for female founders.”
“The investor base needs to diversify. The makeup of the investment community is largely male and at times can be incredibly intimidating for female founders.”
Jenny went on to state that UKBAA’s research shows that on average 30-50% of a woman angels’ portfolio is made up of female-founders, whilst conversely, only 10% of a male angels’ portfolio is made up of female founders. While this staggering statistic begs for action, it also speaks to the investment community needing to be more inclusive of not only women founders, but women angels. Francesca Warner noted there is a need to continually and actively be inclusive from the investor side. Understanding the market, especially what is being invested in and who is receiving investment is key to developing lasting methodologies to diversify the pipeline.
In addition to hearing from an array of talented and successful guest speakers, the day offered opportunities for founders to meet 1-on-1 with Angel and VC mentors who were able to provide strong insights into how to take advantage of investment opportunities and receive meaningful mentorship. It welcomed pushing back against the status quo and encouraged women to stand together with other women, but also stand with their male allies. It identified how we need to challenge institutional imbalances, not just as women, but as co-workers, teams, and companies at large.
The Women Mean Business campaign is far from over and will continue on into 2019, welcoming a new wave of businesswomen receiving well-deserved funding. The campaign will continue to pull back the curtains on economic imbalances and make way for a future where women founders, CEO’s, Policy Makers and leaders have the opportunity fight the fair fight on a gender-even playing field.
Check out Jenny Tooth’s Women Mean Business feature article here
If you would like to get involved in UKBAA’s initiative to support women angel investors and increase investment opportunities for women founders, join us at the Women Angels of the North Investment Forum on 12 November in Leeds. Find out more here