Aside from their ability to hot-foot it around London in skyscraper heels, the ladies of this year's BBC Apprentice have me fascinated as they glamorously buck the trend for UK female entrepreneurs. If a fear of failure is the biggest barrier to entrepreneurship for women, I'm taking notes from this year's Apprentice hopefuls.
The F-word (failure), the Achille's heel for 44% of women in a recent report, appears to be an alien concept to the females competing to be Lord Sugar's 2013 business partner. And this is particularly true of the two finalists. Dr Leah Totton proved her mettle in the interviews, rattling off projected turnover figures as well as showing she's not afraid to get her hands dirty by multi-tasking as cleaner. Then there's 25-year-old, self-professed "Business Barbie" that is Luisa Zissman who, in her audition interview, described herself as having "the energy of a Duracell bunny, sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit and a brain like Einstein". Golly, I feel inadequate just reading that!
Big businesses in the UK now have women in almost a third of their top and medium-level positions, and the tides are changing in entrepreneurship too. Around 10% of women are considering starting their own business, with the most entrepreneurial female age being 35-44. Ladies, it's time to face the fear and do it with these three tips:
1. Shift the focus
Fear of failure is not uncommon but what sets apart the men from the boys, or the ladies from the girls, is how much attention is given to this most basic 'fight or flight' instinct. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, start to focus on what motivates you. For a quarter of women it's heart-centred, so a report says: female entrepreneurs want to "do something they're truly passionate about" and like the idea of being their own boss. What is it that you most desire? Is it freedom, prosperity, fulfillment? Get clear on what drives you and make that your focus? How would it feel to create that feeling in your life?
2. Fail like a winner
Reality check: you might fail. And if you do, that's ok, you're in great company. Richard Branson was a high school dropout, Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, Donald Trump was declared bankrupt. I struggle to quote female examples and that proves my point. Risk-taking might not be an inherently female trait but it can't be the reason to hold you back. See it from a new perspective: just because an idea doesn't work, it doesn't make you a failure. It's through testing and failing that you'll get to that 'a-ha moment'.
3. Build the muscle
Nobody was born knowing how to be an entrepreneur. Nor were we born knowing how to walk or talk, either. The most successful people fail repeatedly; they get knocked down five times and get up six. Look the fear of failure in the face, push your boundaries and build the 'muscle' that is courage knowing that you'll handle it.
Come on ladies, as Luisa said, "we've so got a point to prove to those stupid boys".