Recently I saw an announcement of business awards for women who have started and run businesses while also bringing up young children. My first reaction was how patronising to regard working women in any form as an oddity.
However, regardless of the merits of the awards, I started looking at some of the entries into the competition this year. In doing so I started to see real trends in the sorts of businesses that women were starting. As a result I went off in search of lots of other successful women entrepreneurs and my initial observations were continually reinforced.
As someone working in the entrepreneurial arena I have always known that women start businesses with significantly less capital requirements than men and that they usually demonstrate far better financial control over their business.
But my research has led me to conclude that there are many other aspects of female entrepreneurship that are desirable and which are much more likely to lead to success.
The first of these is the fact that female businesses seem to attack real problems that they have experienced and which resonate with other women. Whether this is replacing those awful poppers on baby grows with zips or designing a miniaturised tracking device for vulnerable relatives, their solutions tackle real problems.
The second observation was that many of today’s female entrepreneurs focus much more an health issues, whether direct medical services or through healthy living. Whether through products, through recipes, or through services, women seem far more concerned with health issues than men.
The other main observation was that female products and services seem to be far more concerned with sustainable. environmentally friendly solutions. To them it is not sufficient to produce a better cleaning product, it also has to be safe around children, multi-purpose and environmentally friendly.
What does become clear is that financial gain is not where most of the female businesses begin. That is not to say that they do not make money. Indeed there are countless examples of financially successful businesses. However, such financial success come from establishing a successful business based on real need and real problem solving.
In today’s struggling economy where more of the same as before does not seem to be working, perhaps we should be lauding the female businesses after all. Not because they are started and run by women, but because they demonstrate the real characteristics of starting a successful business.
More importantly, we should be encouraging more women, through our education system, to use their undoubted problem solving skills to regenerate their country’s economy.
In 1948 Margaret Roberts was rejected for a job by ICI and the personnel department reported that ‘This women is head-strong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated’! Later, as Margaret Thatcher, she became the UK’s first and only woman prime minister.
Let us find ways to stop trying to imply that entrepreneurship is another of those male preserves and that women should stick to the roles men define for them to protect their male egos.