There is an incredible pipeline of female business talent here in the UK, with more than an estimated 21% of SME’s currently headed up by women, and in 2017 the female employment rate was recorded at the highest point since data on this subject started being collected back in 1971*.
However I feel that there is still a long way for us to go ensure equal opportunities for women and men. Female business leaders particularly continue to struggle to make their mark within the SME sector and even in this day and age we continue to see wage gaps that grow between men and women. The current gender pay gaps mean that effectively women will work for free from November to the year-end, something that must surely change?
As a female entrepreneur, I want to empower other women to follow their dreams. Sustainable business models that actively contribute to society, whilst providing employment, paying their fair share taxes and generating profits - are possible.
When I set up Amelia Rope Chocolate, I set out to create a business that represents my values and it’s really important to me that it is a structure, which contributes to society whilst providing me with a living. Looking back, there were times when the fear of failure would literally keep me awake at night, but I knew with hard work and determination I could ‘make it’. For a long time I had huge insecurity and no pay. Now, I realise that I have created a business that has been an engine for growth and employment, which is also socially minded. That makes me incredibly proud. I have also created a range of award-winning products taste great and should be savoured. My mantra is: “Eat less - Eat better - Feel better”.
Some of those who have inspired me along the way from the White Company’s founder Chrissie Rucker who identified a gap in the market, and who created a truly focused brand with a really loyal following. She showed me that it’s possible to maintain success and survive recession periods, whilst staying on brand and down-to-earth.
I also really admire Edwina Dunn founder of Dunnhumby - a data pioneer, and one of the first people to explore capturing databases of customers and realise the huge power of data. Best known for the Tesco loyalty card in the 1990’s, she started the business with her husband, Clive Humby. The couple went on to sell out to Tesco and as a result they went through some very challenging times leaving the business in 2010. Edwina's focus now is The Female Lead campaign (‘FL’) (a not-for-profit initiative founded 2012). The organisation encourages more girls to study STEM (science, tech, engineering and math).
The FL campaign aims to showcase stories of inspiring women such as Brenda Berkman, NYC’s 1st female firefighter in NYC, and Lyemah Gbowee, Nobel peace prizewinner.
These women have taught me the importance of sharing advice and experience to collectively help other business leaders. I think about the daily battles that women face on a daily basis globally – such as my courageous cocoa growers in the north-western Arauca region of Colombia trying to earn an honest living, and turning away from what can be life-threatening situations as a result of the cocaine trade.
I first met Nayla, 4 years ago on my first trip to Colombia. I was immediately captivated with her eye for design, company values and chocolate. Nayla has an artisan chocolate company, Chuculat which is based near Cali (the SW of Colombia near the coast). Some of her cocoa is grown by ex-cocaine farmers, encouraging them to move to a safer crop; cocoa. The devotion she has inspired on her plantations means that a lady over 90 years old still wants to be part of her cocoa community and help wherever she can. Next year I hope to bring some of Nayla’s bars into my range.
For Networking: @WIBNIntl
Great Resource: @BIPC
* Statistic from ‘Women and the Economy Briefing Paper’ – House of Commons library