We’ve come a long way from the 1950s, but the expectations on women in the world today are still ridiculous. We’re no longer expected just to be at home looking after the family. We’re now working full time and expected to care for a home full time, care for a child full time, make a life full time, look fantastic full time - you get the picture. The pressure on women to conform to societal expectations is huge, but girls, we’ve got to maintain that fierce independence and we’ve got to do more for ourselves.
The expectations of women, even in 2021
Even I have had comments recently, expecting that I, the female, do the main organising of the children and the house and I must earn less than my husband. Just some small examples, but I recently picked the children up from school and had a comment from a teacher about my daughter's lunch box contents (all fine, don't worry) but they said 'what mummy puts in your lunch box' automatically assuming that's my role. Actually, my husband does the morning school runs and lunch boxes while I crack on with work in the mornings. As it currently stands, I am the breadwinner, but it is not assumed or recognised.
In our home I even had a comment recently from a family member about how I haven't dusted some leaves on a plant I own.. why is that my job? Why can't that be my husband's responsibility if I am working full-time? Or equally our responsibility?
When my husband left his full-time job to start self-employment from scratch, another family member commented that they were really concerned for him as they know how expensive life is raising a family. It was not assumed that I am actually earning enough money to support us, the same as my husband was when our children were young and I took maternity leave and then a part-time job. They seem to assume my husband must work to support us and can't comprehend that I, a female, can earn the same or more than my husband when he was the breadwinner.
The pressure really is on as a female, I still feel like the house is my responsibility to be clean and tidy, I must be successful and independent and able to stand on my own two feet, I must also be the main carer for the children and the family organiser. This expectation is still not put upon men in equal measures.
Women in business - let's do this!
The one thing that most people wouldn't know is that there are not as many women in business as you'd think - but it is changing.
Not so many years ago, you would not see women as CEOs. Women are now finally starting to become CEOs, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
As the Telegraph points out in 2021: 'Britain makes barely any progress increasing the number of female CEOs. The number of women leading UK companies has barely increased over the past year, with just 6.3pc of firms run by a female chief executive. The figure compares with 6pc in 2019 and 6.2pc in 2020, marking another 12 months of marginal progress.'
It is improving, but not fast enough. Male leaders are still dominant in business, even in the UK, in 2021.
We’re shifting the balance in our favour while still being so behind where we should be. The salaries are still uneven, and the roles of women are still being discussed as if we should be placed into society rather than choose to be there. As a woman who has dreams and wishes, stepping forward into the business world could be the outlet you need to make a difference. You could be a leader in a professional capacity, which means choosing change. It means finding examples of the best businesses out there and emulating them for yourself.
Being a woman is going to throw up roadblocks in the business world - I won’t lie. However, times are changing and women are becoming better at asserting themselves in the boardroom. You can start a business and find that you are able to abolish the barriers that still sit in front of us. With this in mind, here are some of the best reasons you should start your own female-led business.
Reasons women should start their own business
Women are still earning less than men. If you are the woman in charge of a business, you are going to be able to change the status quo. You can advocate for fair wages in your workplace and you can pay men and women equally based on their experience and not on the fact they are male or female. It’s a good way to lead change.
(I experienced the gender pay gap in my previous employment. Pre-children I worked at the same company for the best part of ten years. I had a very similar role to a male, the main difference being we worked in different departments; one of us in wholesale and the other retail side, both at a head office. Having asked for a pay rise as I already felt I was doing above and beyond the original job description, my line manager told me I should be paid the same as the male doing the similar job to me, yet he didn't know this other persons salary. It also wasn't up to him, it was up to HR. One day, after I left the company, I accidentally found out what this other person's salary was and I'd have needed a wage increase of 60% to match it! And, as you might have already guessed, the end to this little story is my request for a pay rise was declined. Unbelievable.)
Did you know that women make up less than 5% of the current Fortune 500 CEO list? The very first thing to know about this is that with men mostly in power for centuries, women have always found it hard to be taken seriously and get to the top in the first place. With your own business, you can build up to being the CEO you’ve always wanted to be and start climbing that CEO list!
You can change the status quo. Women don't know how much power they have. We have the ability to harness a whole company and bring it into line. Just look at Jacinta Arden and the way she’s harnessed a whole country. She became the world's youngest female head of government at age 37. We need to step up and be the best leaders we can be.
You can run programs for women in your business, training them to be leaders. You can open your business to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them gain experience and to give them support as they move into the working world. You can offer scolarships to get more females into studying business. Scholarship provider Nancy Etz says 'Young women need to hear messages of empowerment in order to fully realize their careers and their independence. Targeted college scholarships can help to give women an extra funding source and encourage them to pursue studies in business and other lucrative fields.'
As a woman in power, you can change the current leave policies that are wholly outdated. You can be in charge of ensuring that both men and women get adequate parental leave and mental health days. You can offer men the chance to stay at home with the children should they want to, so that they can have the same experiences. All of this can make women feel as if they can lead.
You could offer generous maternity leave policies. In the UK, the policy for maternity leave is considered to be a good one compared to the US. It’s important that you can offer your staff the best, and that means making changes that you won’t find in other companies. You can make maternity leave happen but make it better paid. You can ensure that the aftercare for those who have had children is the best it can be. Even if maternity and paternity leave is offered fairly by law in a country, it doesn't always feel this way to put it into practice. People can feel pressured to return to work earlier or men may not feel able to ask for the time off. Make it expected and equal for all.
You get to be a voice for women everywhere. As a person leading a business, you get to be someone who can stand up and speak for other women who aren't getting the same support. Be a change in the world and you will see why you should start your own business.