Why Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Small Business


Why Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Small Business

The last Thursday of July was a big day for women around the world. On Thursday 29 July 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic Party put the biggest crack in the glass ceiling since Margaret Thatcher (love her or hate her) became the Prime Minister of the UK and since Gail Kennedy became the CEO of one of the four major banks in Australia.

HRC (as Clinton is referred to) is now the first female nominee from one of the two major parties in the USA and I wish I could vote in America to add my little nail to the coffin of gender inequality and stuff the alternative candidate in the bottom of the dustbin of history and superglue the lid, never to be heard from again.

Fingers crossed.

Progress is glacial

Meanwhile, in business, the Glass Ceiling is alive and well. Gail Kennedy becoming CEO of Westpac was a big milestone for women in Australia and there are other examples of women in significant executive roles but they remain members of an exclusive club.

The transformation to a gender equal world of work is glacial. I doubt that even my granddaughters, who are now 3, are going to find a world of work that truly offers them equal opportunity in Australia.

Understandably, many women are disillusioned that they’ll ever get there.

But there is a way out that more and more women are taking. It’s called Small Business. Everywhere I look, in Small Business organisations and at networking events I see masses of women business owners.

Many of my clients (Small Business owners) are women. And they are hungry and efficient and effective and creative and resourceful, possibly more so than men. Sure, there’s not a lot of women in the building trades, I’ve come across a few female electricians and painters, but not a lot of bricklayers for example. But aside from business areas that rely at least partly on physical strength I see women everywhere giving up on the corporate world to provide them with the opportunities they crave and decide to go out and do it for themselves.

Women business lasts

And the thing is, women are doing it better than men, at least in my experience. Obviously, I don’t have anything else than anecdotal evidence to back this up, but I think women are more likely to build Small Businesses that last than men.

One of the most successful consultancy firms (Efficient Living) I’ve worked with is owned by a woman; The most successful copywriting and marketing agency I know is owned by a woman (Cavalletti Communications), The most successful floristry business (Little Flowers), the most successful beauty business (Paddington Beauty Salon), the most successful architecture business (Entrance Hall), are all owned by women, and I could go on.

My own daughter-in-law started a landscape design and construct business after turning her back on the bureaucracy of the Education system (Excelsa Landscapes). Two years on and she’s doing everything right. She’s focused, disciplined, smart and above all, she wants this, now.

As a woman she knows she has an opportunity, that she must grab and there isn’t a moment to lose. In a few years she wants to have kids (and I’ll be grandpa again) and by that stage the business simply must be in a state that she can manage it more or less at arm’s length while having the baby(ies).

Men don’t always feel those imperatives, I can tell you I didn’t. As a result many men bumble along much longer; if it doesn’t happen this year, next year will do and if it doesn’t work out we’ll go and do something else. But for my daughter-in-law it’s now or never, and she’s rolled up her sleeves and she’s doing it now.

Business women in Europe

I’ve noticed the same thing the world over. I have spent the last few weeks in Holland, with my family. The family is a large one with a bunch of women in the 30 to 50 age range, and many of them have started their own business of some sort, many more than the men.

The statistics in Holland are staggering. In the last few years, since the Global Financial Crisis, the number of self-employed people has jumped from about 300,000 to more than a million and much more than 50% of those people are women.

Small Business doesn’t care whether you’re male or female. If you do what you say you’ll do, if you respond promptly to your inquiries, if you charge a reasonable fee, people will find you and hire you.

In the past 6 weeks, I have been spending time with my mother in the last weeks of her life. She was cared for by a number of 24hr nurses, doctors and other care givers, and here’s the thing:

  • They were all women.
  • They were all self-employed (every single one of them),
  • And they were all fantastic.

‘Nough Said.

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