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100 FSB Women for IWD

Yesterday, 8 March 2018 marked International Women’s Day (IWD), a global celebration of women’s social, political and cultural achievements, while still pushing for progress for future generations. In the last year, we’ve seen women from all walks of life stand up and start the conversation on issues that women still face, from gender equality, to fair pay and sexual assaults. This year’s theme is #PressForProgress, a call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity.

Thanks to two recent big social media campaigns – #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, the call for change this year has not gone unnoticed.

I am a member of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and am also on its Diversity Taskforce, and this year the FSB created a very strong and inspiring digital campaign to raise the visibility of role models for women entrepreneurs. It’s called 100 FSB Women. These women come from all sectors and each has a special story to tell and valuable advice to impart to other women.

2018 is the 100-year anniversary of when the first women got the right to vote, following the suffragettes’ campaigning, and the FSB felt it was fitting to feature 100 women FSB members and share their wealth of advice and inspiration with women all over the world.

I am very proud to be alongside these women and be part of this 100 and for my business tip to be featured by Business Leader.

The UK currently has 5.7 million small businesses and self-employed, but it is estimated that could be boosted by a further 1.2 million new enterprises led by women. This untapped business potential of women can be tackled, in part, by increasing the visibility of role models for women entrepreneurs, according to a recent FSB report.

Sadly and perhaps unfairly, research shows that women are less likely than their male counterparts to know a person in business and, as a result, have fewer opportunities to benefit from exposure to others with business experience and are less likely to see people like themselves succeeding.

Entrepreneurship was once considered a man’s domain but this is changing throughout the world – Nigeria now outranks the US and the UK in terms of percentage of entrepreneurs among women with a rate of 41% for the African country against 10% and 5.7% for the two developed countries respectively.

Yet women in Nigeria and other developing economies have shown to be 20% less likely than men to have a bank account and 17% less likely to have borrowed formally. Factors such as legal restrictions on women to open bank accounts without a male relative’s authorization are a challenge for women in the region.

While IWD is now over till next year, our work to press for progress continues – today, tomorrow, the day after that and the day after that… and the last verse of the poem, The Woods Are Lovely Dark And Deep by Robert Foster springs to mind…

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

 

International Women’s Day: #BeBoldForChange

 

This year there is so much for us to shout about and our voices to be heard on, from – equal pay, supporting women in business, Trump and more. This year International Women’s Day on 8 March is asking everyone to #BeBoldForChange, urging us all to help forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender equal world.

We know that progress has been slow and that we need international action to accelerate gender parity. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186! This is just too long to wait. This 8 March provides an important opportunity for ground-breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.

There are many initiatives and people doing vital work to help create this needed change, and I had the opportunity to interview Jane Shepherdson, MBE, a leading figure in fashion retail, former CEO of Whistles and prior to that, Brand Director at Topshop. Jane supporting young designers through the London College of Fashion’s Centre of Fashion Enterprise and has helped promote Fair Trade fashion to a wider audience as a Board member of Peopletree until 2013.

Jane is also Creative Advisor to Oxfam and a patron of the charity Smart Works, a service that offers free professional clothing and job interview training to women. I spoke with Shepherdson about her role at Smart Works and what this charity is all about from her perspective. Read the full interview.

Photo Credit: International Women’s Day