the Centre for Entrepreneurs carried out research where the majority of women interviewed didn’t identify with the term entrepreneur frequently citing it as a loaded title. Preferred terms were founder or business founder . Some may wonder if this is particularly important at all surely there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to damaging portrayals of women, not to mention gender inequality across the workplace in general Well, yes and no. This aversion to being called an entrepreneur and the reasons given, point to the prevalent and damaging presence of unconscious bias an intrinsic part of gender inequality. Economically, it’s harmful too. The Centre for Entrepreneurs said that entrepreneurship is the very sector that generates the highest number of most new jobs, and fosters nearly all of the growth in the UK economy . The report estimated that if women started businesses at the same rates as men, there’d be a million more entrepreneurs in the UK. Without ridding the sector of unhelpful (and often entirely inaccurate) stereotypes, we could be losing out on a whole lot of talent and potential. Women-led SMEs currently add around 70bn to the economy.
Image: Shutterstock Early startup activity in the UK?has risen to 8.6 per cent of the working-age (18-64 years) populationAnd the number of active companies increased by 3.7 per cent in the second half of 2014. There’s evidently ongoing interest in and pursuit of entrepreneurial activity, but there’s a gender gap of almost 50 per cent in entrepreneurship in the UK. The Centre for Entrepreneurs’ research was conducted across 483 C-suite executives and entrepreneurs from UK business, from a range of industries, whose businesses had an annual turnover of over 2m. It found that both men and women shared a strong appetite for growth 90 per cent of men and 92 per cent of women executives said they were very or extremely interested in growing their business in the next three years. Among entrepreneurs, this stood at 82 per cent of men and 83 per cent of women. Women though had quite considerably greater entrepreneurial ambitions less than 18 per cent of male business founders said they were interested in starting another business in the next few years, compared to over 47 per cent of female founders. Female executives were also keen to start their own businesses 69 per cent showed ambition there compared to 29 per cent of their male peers. Financial reasons may be a contributor here. There has been earlier talk of a reverse pay gap in entrepreneurship, with women out earning their male equivalents earning up to 17 per cent more. Read more on gender inequality:
- We need new tools to stamp out the hardy perennial of gender inequality
- Is the gender pay gap down to discrepancies in bonuses
- Gender inequality in the workplace: A new dawn for an age-old problem
Image: Shutterstock The personality attributes ascribed to entrepreneurs also make up part of the problem. The American research suggested that there’s a perceived lack of fit regarding women as business founders, and as a result they are more likely to have their performance devalued and will be less likely to receive opportunities to develop their career further. A fundamental issue to address appears to be making a conscious effort particularly those in investor and policymaker positions to readdress the unconscious bias already in effect. Such unconscious bias is of course, a wide-ranging problem. For example, orchestras have introduced blind auditions conducted behind a screen to ensure hiring is solely done on merit with the addition of carpeted floor so women’s high-heels don’t give anything away. Up to around 1970, the top five orchestras in the US had less than five per cent women. By 1997, this was up to 25 per cent, reflecting the impact of the introduction of blind auditions since the 70s and 80s. Supposedly the screen being used for a preliminary round alone already made it 50 per cent more likely that a woman would advance to the finals. The overwhelming majority of those surveyed in the Centre for Entrepreneurs study said that acknowledging their gender diminished their accomplishments as if they were successful for a woman . There is an important balance to establish for investors and funders to acknowledge that women are ambitious regarding growth, while also seeing more barriers to it, and adjusting for biased perceptions. At the same time, a long-term aim of many female business founders is to be recognised as simply a successful entrepreneur without all the qualification the term or added epithets may bring to it. Image: Shutterstock By Rebecca Smith
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