The achievements of some of Britain’s leading female entrepreneurs were recognised at the 15th annual NatWest Everywoman Awards in London last week.
We caught up with some of this year’s winners to hear about the challenges that currently face women in business – and gained some invaluable tips for encouraging the next generation.
‘Establish that you’re the boss’
Sandra Sassow is the co-founder and chief executive of the waste management company, SEaB energy, and won an Everywoman award for a business trading between 18 months and three years.
She says that in scaling her operation globally, the biggest challenge has been doing business in countries where women are not traditionally corporate leaders.
“Some men have never done a business deal with a woman,” she says. “Those people are often less receptive to a female chief executive, which is especially true in my sector, because it’s generally
Her solution? “Some people’s perception of a woman’s role doesn’t include that of the decision-maker, so establish with them that you’re the boss.”
That includes, for example, where you – and your staff – sit at a boardroom table. “In countries where it’s the norm, I will only deal with other chief executives and won’t communicate with people below my level [of authority],” she adds.
“It can sometimes take a bit longer to earn respect, but once you have it, you can get down to business.”
‘Educate the educators’
Anne Timpany, founder of commercial plumbing company,
On Tap Plumbers, picked up a gong for a business trading from six to nine years.
She says that women must not feel like they can’t start-up in sectors that are typically dominated by men.
“It’s a challenge, because women assume that there’s a lot of manual heavy handling and not enough child support,” she explains.
But in Ms Timpany’s corner of the sector, working on large-scale developments, health and safety requirements means that heavy lifting isn’t required.
And because women tend to be a
minority in an industry that’s crying out for more of a gender balance, employers are more willing to meet childcare and flexible working needs to make their organisations more attractive, she says.
“Educate the educators,” she advises. “I’ve come across young girls who have been really interested in plumbing, but have been put off by educators who tell them that girls can’t be plumbers.”
Young women must be inspired by people at home, and in schools and colleges to enter the construction industry, she says:
“The opportunities are huge – it’s a sector that has a desperate skills shortage and doesn’t require university qualifications.”
‘We need more women in investment roles’
The founder of FLOWERBX florist, Whitney Bromberg Hawkings,
says that a challenge facing many women looking to raise money is that most investment decision-makers are male.
“Men don’t come [at things] from the same perspective as women,
and won’t always understand the right direction necessary for growth if a business caters to a female market,” explains the winner of the award for growth potential.
The change required is simple, she thinks:
“We need more women in investment firms and in senior roles.”