Millennial women are now more likely to start a business than men. Women really do mean business - sisters are definitely doing it for themselves.
Women are turning hobbies into business, passion into enterprise; eschewing traditional career routes to make their work work for them; re-writing the rulebook on how a business should work. Whether it is wish or necessity, the upshot is that we are seeing an incredible surge of small business women making waves in the sector and the economy as a whole.
I have been watching this grow as a trend since we launched Small Business Saturday in the UK in 2013 - there really is a huge and growing number of female-led small business doing extraordinary things across the UK. We have more women than men applying for our Small Biz 100 programme. We see women engaging on social media more than men. And encouragingly, I am seeing more and more women put themselves forward for promotion and acclaim than ever before - throwing off the traditional view that men are more forthright in promoting themselves and their businesses.
One of the most optimistic things I have seen in recent years is that people are no longer surprised that a small business is run by a woman. It is the lack of surprise that cheers me the most - once something is so normal we don't comment on it any more, then the job really is on the way to being done! And this is backed up by research - according to a recent report in City AM, 59 percent of entrepreneurs under the age of 35 are female. Female students are also showing a passion for running their own business, and this is playing out as they get into the work place.
The result of this is that I am not seeing women being held back by traditional views of what a business or leader should be; they are writing their own rules. Working hours don't work for you? Set your own new rules. Work location not ideal? Work remotely or set up elsewhere. Flexibility around child care, more collaboration, work place values - these are all being influenced society wide by increased numbers of female leaders in small businesses. There is a lot to be learnt here for other businesses and I believe this is an opportunity for the sector.
It is also an opportunity for the big business community - there are lessons to be learnt about the benefits of women in leadership positions that should be heeded by a sector historically not so great at doing so.
With strong female leaders finding their feet, what we need now is more mentorship - both offering it and receiving it. As small business leaders find themselves succeeding in their fields, they should be helping the next generation of businesses coming up behind them. Likewise, the most important thing for those starting out as a small business is to find a mentor. This collaboration across the small business community will reap considerable benefits both in the short and long term - more knowledge sharing, more help when times get tough, less businesses failing. And if we have a strong collaborative small business community, even more female and male entrepreneurs will be attracted in, which can only be a good thing for UK Plc as a whole.
So lets get collaborating.
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