According to the RBS Group Women in Enterprise, just 17% of business owners are women, however that seems to be changing. In Lancashire, as across the UK, we are witnessing a growth of women setting up in business. In 2013 there were almost 1.5 million women registered as self-employed in the UK, which represents an increase of around 300,000 since before the economic downturn.
Self employment is a great option for many women as it provides the flexibility that isn’t offered by many employers. According to Resources for Entrepreneurs, most self-employed women are in midlife, a life stage that usually brings greater confidence , and yet we are aware that fewer female business owners are accessing business growth support.
What business growth managers and business educators are now taking on board is that many of these women coming into business are doing things very differently to the more traditional business model.
Source: http://www.isbe.org.uk/facts#sthash.kXSVCqH5.dpuf Women-Owned Businesses (WOB) in the 21st Century found that there are lower expectations of growth of women led business, partly because of dual roles that women have.
When I compiled the stories for my book 'The Super Women of Lancashire' what became clear was that women business owners are still mostly the ones who look after the children when they are sick, take responsibility for most of the domestic duties and, because of the Sandwich Generation phenomenon, many are now also responsible for looking after elderly parents – all on top of running a business.
That is my story too, as a single mum with an elderly mum of my own, I have to juggle many roles. So for me it was crucial to get a coach or mentor that understood that, but it took a few attempts to find the right support. Of course women are setting up their own informal support networks, but we understand that women and business growth needs to be on the agenda in Lancashire - and nationally.
I had the great pleasure of talking to Catherynn Dunstan, the officer responsible for the Cumbria Rural Women's Growth Network. She made a decision to put some resources into providing regular training and support for women business owners and she concludes that there has been considerable regional business growth as a result (plus 5 new members joining per day!).
With this in mind, Lancashire business growth support providers want to listen and adapt to these trends, so that they can offer relevant support. To get this started we have pulled together a group of partners to organise a day event - Listening Out Loud | June 19th | 9.30am to 2.00pm | Samlesbury Hotel, Preston.
The day will give women the opportunity to find out what exactly is on offer by having providers all together in one room, as well as a facilitated session to enable participants to identify their own needs in terms of growing their business. In addition, attendees have the chance to attend two workshops to learn some new skills to take back to the workplace, as well as a significant opportunity to network with peers.
It is expected that this event will be the first step to ensuring that women business owners in Lancashire are able to access good, relevant business growth support.