Leadership & Productivity

How to boss it in a male-dominated industry (and never apologise for it)

5 min read

27 March 2019

I'm a female leader who, like many, has built herself up to a position of leadership. But how do you stay on top especially if the industry you're leading in happens to be dominated by men? My first piece of advice? Never apologise for being an entrepreneurial and driven woman in business.

I’ve always felt that entrepreneurial drive to do things my own way, to take an idea and run with it. It’s how I ended up moving from Scotland to Devon to buy a pub and become its landlady at the age of 26.

Through managing that pub, I learned how businesses work – and the frustrations that come with them. I found it impossible to find any form of software that could help me to forecast my future cash flow accurately, so decided to create my own. This is where I first entered the fintech world.

Fintech isn’t an industry I’d planned to be part of, but it held the technology needed to make my idea a reality. The sector has a huge diversity problem: despite improvements in recent years, women represent just under a third of total employees in UK fintech companies. At the time, I didn’t think about this underrepresentation. I simply convinced our (now) Chief Engineering Officer to begin building the software. We literally created the business in my kitchen.

I’ve never let my success as a CEO in the fintech world be hindered by my gender. To me, it’s irrelevant. But as someone in a position of leadership, it’s my responsibility to ensure we equal the playing field, encouraging more women into tech roles and at management level. With this in mind, here are a few tips that I’ve learned while paving the way in a male-dominated industry.

Always trust your gut

This is easier said than done – particularly for women in business, who tend to second guess themselves. You need to have full belief in what you’re doing if you want other people to believe in it too (and in you). Trust in yourself and your decisions – and stop seeking external validation. Futrli is now a global scaleup with offices across four countries. Imagine if I’d doubted my idea or my ability to thrive in the SaaS space.

Trusting your ideas and developing self-belief is one thing – taking that idea from vision to reality is another.

It requires hard work, a solid team and, of course, cash. Only 2% of female-founded tech companies successfully secured VC funding in 2018. However, I didn’t feel worried about my chances. This is because we never rushed the process. Instead, we took our time to develop and evidence our business model before pitching to investors. The proof was in the stats. If you can evidence your confidence and belief in your idea, there’s nothing to hold you back, except yourself, which brings me to my next crucial tip…

Say goodbye to perfectionism

All too often I see perfectionism stifling progress. It’s a trait shared by many females, and especially by female CEOs. Always remind yourself: done is better than perfect.

What’s more, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. I personally believe that female entrepreneurs should shout about their accomplishments a whole lot more than they do, but if you are worried about coming across as self-promotional, try showing rather than telling. Here those stats and proof points will carry you forward.

Finally, look after yourself

Running your own business is a whirlwind. Throw a husband and three kids into the mix (or whatever your situation is) and it becomes even more of a juggling act. It can be so easy to neglect your own wellbeing but no good will ever come from running yourself into the ground.

Giving myself space to prioritise my self-care has made me a better manager, thinker, friend and colleague. Your success relies on you being healthy as much as it does on you working hard.