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Illustration by Elda Broglio
Addressing entrepreneurial equality
Nuriya Shoro, EMEA Corporate Development Associate at Wunderman Thompson, says that it is time to support women in business
To coincide with the UN’s theme for International Women’s Day 2022, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, we’re recognising brilliant people from across the WPP network who are leading the charge on building a more sustainable and equitable future for all.
If we are to inspire growth for ambitious brands, what’s more ambitious than a woman trying to navigate her way through a marketplace that does not represent her?
As we rebuild economies following the pandemic – including the green economy around net zero and the blue economy of the oceans – let’s be mindful to address entrepreneurial equality too.
What is the problem?
Data on gender disparity around funding and business outcomes has been circling for some time. Back in October 2020, the British Business Bank – the UK’s economic development bank – issued a report called Alone together: Entrepreneurship and Diversity in the UK. The report examined the impact ethnic and economic background, gender and geography have on business outcomes.
It found that, in the UK, female entrepreneurs from ethnic minority backgrounds experience the biggest disparities. But women business owners generally (that is of all ethnicities) experience significantly lower median turnover than male entrepreneurs, and fewer say they met their financial aims. It is in no one’s interests for this disparity to continue. Diversity and inclusion in the business landscape is healthy for customers, business-owners, investors, and communities.
The European Commission has also been prompted to act and promotes women's economic empowerment by bringing together the various support schemes from around the bloc. It has launched the Europe-wide online platform WEgate. The intention is to create a hub for connecting women entrepreneurs with support organisations at local, regional, national and European level.
In the US, a pre-pandemic report by American Express happily showed that women-owned businesses were trending above all businesses, fuelled partly by side hustles. But let’s keep in mind that a significant proportion of women-owned businesses noted in the report operated in the services sector (such as hairdressing), healthcare and social assistance, and professional services. Some of those sectors will have been severely impacted by the pandemic. As the World Economic Forum reported, another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity.
The tables are turning
In the UK, a record 140,000 female-founded firms were created in 2021, according to the Rose Review, 2022. The aim is to boost the number of female entrepreneurs by 600,000 by the end of the decade, but speed is of the essence.
The report also showed that, finally, the investment community is coming together to support female entrepreneurs. A total of 134 organisations with a combined investment power of nearly £1Tr have signed up to the Investing in Women Code, committing them to improve equality in access to finance.
Women have been under-represented in the funding sector for years. The UK – home of arguably the largest financial services sector in the world – is seeking to address the issue through government action. A 2016 report found that, in 2015, women made up only 14% of Executive Committees in the Financial Services sector. In response to the recommendations in that review, HM Treasury launched the Women in Finance Charter to build a more balanced and fair industry.
There are now over 330 firms of all shapes and sizes across financial services signed up to the commitments of the Charter – from global banks to credit unions – with headquarters in the UK, US, Europe and Asia.
The news is not all good. Worryingly, the share of venture funding going to female-founded start-ups is down. Crunchbase reports that, in the first eight months of 2021, companies with solely female founders raised just 2.2% of all venture funding, which is lower share than any of the previous five calendar years.
Fund Femme is our response
This is why Wunderman Thompson launched Fund Femme. This initiative is dedicated to building a community of women-owned businesses to address gender inequality, raise awareness, and bring about better funding outcomes.
It all started in 2019 when one of our UK creatives challenged her colleagues to shop only at women-owned businesses for a week. It could not be done. Then came COVID, which conflated the gender problem further.
We decided we needed to do something – that change needs to happen. As a company dedicated to inspiring growth in brands, it's our duty to champion these women-owned businesses, and to help them grow – and inspire others to do the same.
A directory of women-owned businesses – and the social media presence to go with it – were launched in July 2021. The directory has a range of features: a map function, tags, social media links. And we've had businesses from all over the globe apply so, when you look at the map function, you can see pin drops from all over the world.
We are now trying to make sure that we are walking the walk, and not just putting out statements. Initially our focus was building the directory. Now we've realised that with our expertise and our client roster, it makes a lot more sense to put our energy towards building a thriving community of women-owned businesses.
The aim is to champion women who are running their own businesses globally, creating a community that's designed for them, to help them thrive, and challenge the norms of the business world. Please support this important initiative. Let’s challenge ourselves to buy from and do business with women-owned business, and let’s keep the entries to the directory coming in.
08 March 2022