It's no secret that women face inequalities in the work place. The combination of fewer opportunities, a history of sexism in regard to employing women in senior positions and reliance on women to provide free child-care means statistically there is far less chance that women will end up in executive positions in the corporate field (16.6% Fortune 500 Board Seats Held by Women in 2012 - according to Catalyst)
Yet in contrast, if writing from my experience setting up a business four years ago, with no background in business or previous experience, I now run a thriving company. This includes managing a significant staff team, venue and sizable annual budget. Had I gone the traditional route I am doubtful I would be a company Director at 26. Which begs the question, are women better off striking out on their own and running their own businesses?
Setting up and running a business is not easy, but neither is working your way up the corporate ladder. Women face sexism in a number of ways at work; not being regarded as competent, having to work twice as hard as men to prove commitment and being considered 'cold' or 'bossy' when being as directional as men are allowed to be. I find it incredible that globally women own only 1% of all property. Though there have been massive gains in women's rights, there is clearly a long way to go.
Setting up and running your own company no matter how big or small, gives you more control over who you work with, how far you reach, reducing the glass celling effect and I for one feel empowered as a woman in business to create my own trajectory. If I want to be promoted, improve or move strategy up a gear, I have to work to make by business grow. I therefore have more ownership of my future. At least internally, my gender is not a major issue in success or failure, it is more down to supply and demand that determines how fruitful my business is.
Business is a harsh world. That can be used as an advantage. Most successful businesses solve a problem that the customer/ consumer has. If this need is significant and the service you are offering is focused on delivering something of the right quality and value, I find that people are less discriminatory. Using my business, the London Jewellery School as an example, if you want to learn to make jewellery, and you like the classes on offer, the teachers and the overall experience etc. you'll go there to learn regardless of whether the owner is a man or a woman. If you are offering a quality product or service that solves a genuine need, even in a sexist society, female business owners can come out just as strong as their male counterparts.
Don't get me wrong, I still face sexism as a business owner. Many people hear I run a jewellery business and assume as a women in jewellery I make a few pieces at home to sell on Ebay. At least in this environment they are not in a position of power/ authority over hiring, firing and or promoting me. And I soon put them straight!
One of the things that most attracted me to setting up on my own is the freedom and autonomy I would have over what I did. I didn't consider at the time, that as a woman it may also be a wise career move to 'go it alone'. I feel in my job I'm able to make a real difference and impact to the things that are important to me and that an advantage of working for yourself, regardless of the size of business, is the control and influence you have over achieving your vision.
Running a business isn't for everyone and although there may be an equal amount of sexism in 'the city' and the 'business scene', in the latter you have the power, autonomy and choice to defy it. In the city, if a manager/ boss/ CEO wants to promote a man over you there is not much you can do about it. We need to work on changing that, but alongside promoting those changes, if you are a woman wanting to start up and do something you are passionate about, for what it's worth, you have my backing.
Connect with Jessica Rose