In recent weeks I have been conducting some secondary market research and have stumbled across quite a number of recent articles railing against discrimination against women seeking self -employment or involving themselves in start-up businesses. Apparently women are unrepresented proportionally in the UK as business owners and the gap is significant. Approximately women are only half as likely as men to go forward with their idea and seek advice. Shocking statistics will often follow these articles that do indeed make women appear overlooked and maligned.
Instead of the usual jerk of the knee, picking my side and indulging in a spot of desk thumping, I considered my own experience starting my little business. Perhaps I am lucky, perhaps I am special, perhaps I have good timing or I am geographically fortunate, but I don’t believe so. I could not identify at all with any of the articles that suggested I would face significant hurdles as a woman entering into business for myself.
I had an idea for a business that I believed could make me fulfilled as a person and would support me. I tested my idea to discover if it had merit, when I found that it could be a valid option I sought support. Through the encouragement of several agencies I have a business of my own ready to trade at a moment’s notice. Not once have I been patronised or discouraged from my goal, or even made to feel I was out of my depth.
The statistics are clearly dramatic and designed to be so, perhaps they are unarguably true to boot! What I wonder, what I believe may be up for question, is whether this is deliberate discrimination or anybody’s fault. I will stick my head above the parapet and declare that I do not believe in shortlists or preferential treatment of any kind, I believe in the best person for the job. Some of the time that is just going to be a man. I honestly believe that if a person is good at what they do, that person will be called upon. Business is business.
The fact is the gap does exist. Dare we suggest that perhaps, to some degree, these statistics reflect a truth we don’t like? That there are some professions that women just don’t gravitate to, or there are confidence issues in putting oneself forward or even the perception of discrimination that may not, in fact, exist? It is therefore possible that women could be placing limitations on themselves. The figures do show that women are increasingly entering self-employment at record levels, even if they are proportionately lower than men. The figures also demonstrate a significant contribution women in self-employment make toward the overall wealth of the UK.
I genuinely believe choice and support is there for everyone regardless, that we should be very careful when interpreting statistics. Jumping to the conclusion that discrimination is the cause is dangerous and may push the wrong person forward for the job. Let’s highlight talent and ingenuity for both men and women. Let’s celebrate teamwork between the sexes and hopefully we can consign the gender divide to the dusty boxes of history. ‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp – or what’s a heaven for?' (Robert Browning - 'Andrea del Sarto')