Female Founders Forum: Future Leaders

A week is a long time in politics and this one will surely pass more slowly than most. My hope is that the Female Founders Forum quarterly newsletter can offer a welcome respite and encouragement on the state of (female) entrepreneurship here in Britain.

We are just a few weeks from the launch of our new Female Founders Forum report. To jog the memory on how we are trying to shape policy to ensure more women-led businesses can start and scale, look no further than our two previous reports. Untapped Unicorns was one of the first studies to shine a spotlight on the gender funding gap – which is now getting the attention it deserves – and was quoted in the HM Treasury review into female entrepreneurship earlier this year. Mentoring Matters addressed access to role models and mentors – both deemed vital to ensuring more women start and scale businesses. This year we are turning attention towards leadership – building a culture, managing crises, and when scaling a business.

Our most exciting news from the last few months is the addition of fantastic new members to the FFF.

– Mums in Technology Founder June Angelides is one of the most influential women in tech. She is chair of The Future Skills Programme, a founding Ambassador of the FiftyFiftyPledge, and a VC at Samos Investments.
– Tania Boler, co-founder of Elvie, is restoring pelvic floors and giving women the confidence to pump in public. Any concerns femtech founders may have that VCs won’t invest in female-focused firms can look no further for inspiration.
– Erika Brodnock is founder of Karisma Kidz, multi-award winning entrepreneur, Sky News parenting expert and NED at Fundamentally Children.
– Alex Daly is on the coalface, leading the industry taskforce charged with implementing the Rose Review, mentoring five other women, sitting on the APPG for Women and Enterprise, all while running AA Advisors.
– Julia Elliott Brown is taking a practical approach to ensuring women-led businesses get the finance they need to scale with her second business, Enter The Arena.
– Annabel Karmel is helping mothers across the nation nourish their children with her extensive range of cookbooks, foods and recipes. 
– Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts CBE surely needs no introduction.

Since our last email, we have also held roundtables across the country, written articles for national media, and banged the drum for female entrepreneurship at external events. Here’s what you may have missed.

May. The ONS released figures showing that the UK has more women in work than ever before. Now 71% of women are in work, compared to 65% in 2010 (though part of the leap can be accounted for by changes in the women’s pension age). 

June. Japan’s Labour minister was widely ridiculed for declaring that it is “necessary and reasonable” that women wear heels in the workplace. In Switzerland, thousands of women protested against the slow pace of correcting inequalities between the sexes. More positively, here in the UK it was found that more women than ever are at the top of UK companies. Statistics released by the government commissioned Hampton-Alexander review found that as of 1st June, 32.1% of FTSE100 board positions were held by women. 

July. We held three roundtables centred around gender-specific issues in entrepreneurship. Our Female Founders Forum roundtable in Edinburgh addressed leadership challenges. A roundtable with Virginie Charles-Dear addressed the funding gap. (Charles-Dear is founder of toucanBox, one of the UK’s top 100 fastest-growing businesses.) And, we held an event in Parliament with the Rail Delivery Group to discuss rail fare reform, that would reduce exorbitant rail fares for female founders working flexibly. Baroness Kramer, member of the APPG for Entrepreneurship, was keynote speaker, and I wrote about the gender commuting gap for the Telegraph. If you would like to get involved in the campaign for fair fares, do get in touch.

The month also saw a seismic shift in interest in women’s football. A record billion viewers tuned in, suggesting the gender imbalance can still be redressed. With the sponsorship received and increasing fan numbers, the Barclays FA Women’s Super League is set for a big year. 

August. The Entrepreneurs Network released Future Founders: Understanding the Next Generation Entrepreneurs, which found that while 57% of young people cannot name an entrepreneur who inspires them, 85% of those who can list a man. The most commonly-named female founder was Kylie Jenner. While her success in a competitive industry is commendable, I wrote for the Telegraph that we need more diverse role models to inspire the next generation. We found that while Generation Z men and women have thought about starting businesses at similar rates, men are almost twice as likely to have started one (11% to 6%). 

And the release of GCSE results was cause for celebration. Not only did over 800 students receive 9s across the board, but the data show that boys and girls are shunning subjects traditionally associated with their gender. There was a 14% increase in the number of girls studying computing, and they are performing better in STEM subjects than historically. The number of female students taking A-level exams in sciences overtook males for the first time ever this year.

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