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.
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.