Posted on March 30, 2015
Category: Articles

Anne Laudage, Board Member, considers the progress made by women to break through the glass ceiling to become their own bosses.

Today, it’s inconceivable that women in the UK shouldn’t be paid the same as men for equal work, and since the Ford machinists at Dagenham walked out and their action led to the Equal Pay Act in 1970, there has been a real culture shift towards a more diverse workplace. Women’s representation in middle to senior management roles is around 30% and rising. However, there is still a very long way to go before there is gender parity in the board room, but positive strides have been made in the last few years. In 2010, just 12.5% of board members in FTSE 100 companies were women and last year this figure had risen to just under 15%.

What about women entrepreneurs? According to the RBS Group (2013), some 1.5M women in the UK are self employed, yet women only account for 17% of business owners. There’s no doubt women have the creativity, determination and business acumen and the role models are there too. For example, Anya Hindmarsh’s multi-million pound business began by sewing handbags at her kitchen table, and Victoria Beckham, who topped Management Today’s 2014 list of most successful entrepreneurs (male and female).

We have local success stories such as Cleethorpes jewellery designer Daniella Draper, whose bespoke pieces are worn by the likes of Kate Moss, and Angela De Kok General Manager of Cablepoint in Hull, which produces high quality cable assemblies to a wide range of industries. Daniella and Angela are examples of ambitious women who have the good idea, the skills and used business networks to get a helping hand, including a business loan from the Humber LEP to kick start and expand their operations.

I don’t advocate statutory quotas for achievement, but I do believe in debunking myths and breaking down barriers – real and perceived – which inhibit women from aiming for the top. This is where organisations like the Humber LEP can make a positive contribution.

Women can’t get finance
The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership’s Business Loan Fund http://www.humberlep.org/business-support/business-loan-fund provides loans to businesses which can make an impact economically and support sustainable job creation. Also private equity, bank loans and venture capital opportunities consider all businesses cases.

Women lack confidence
There is a perception that women in business are not as self assured as men – not something I would attribute to the majority of enterprising women of my acquaintance! However, I think professionals regardless of gender can benefit from business networking with their peer groups. Some may prefer a single sex group such as the popular Women In Business network, http://womeninbusinesshull.co.uk/ which supports and encourages decision-making women in across the Humber. One– to- one mentoring is another option, and guidance can be provided via the Humber Skills Pledge http://www.humberlep.org/skillspledge or the Humber Growth Hub http://www.humberlep.org/business-support/growthhub.

Women don’t have the skills and experience
There is a recognised skills shortfall across the Humber in both existing and emerging industries, and due to the ageing workforce, this requires immediate interventions. Humber LEP is tackling this deficit and raising awareness of local career opportunities and also working with training providers and funders to achieve the levels of education and skills required. It is also persuading businesses to invest more heavily in training and to satisfy the training requirement of would-be investors. All these initiatives contribute to a more diverse workforce, enabling individuals to achieve their potential and bridge the skills gap.

Organisational culture doesn’t encourage women
If you believe this is the case, Humber LEP’s Growth Hub can signpost you to the most appropriate business support through its website http://www.humberlep.org/business-support/growthhub . Via its network of advisors based with partners across the Humber, Growth Hub can offer specialist and bespoke support, including helping you develop your business’s organisational culture to encourage greater diversity and inclusion.

The theme for the 2015 International Women’s Day was “Let’s Make It Happen.” Across the Humber we have some strong women leading strong businesses, yet we know that there are those who are looking to break through the glass ceiling or need that extra support to strike out on their own. So, let’s help make it happen and look to how we can help them achieve their full potential in the board room and as entrepreneurs.

Anne Laudage

Anne Laudage is a partner of C&A Laudage, a small business that supplies UK retailers with high quality German food products. A masters graduate in Strategic Marketing she has worked extensively across the food industry in the UK and Germany. Anne has experience in both large companies including United Biscuits and Northern Foods and SMEs. As a consultant Anne has advised leading food companies in Germany on entering the UK market.

Anne Laudage