There’s a lot of noise around the various barriers women have in business, the disadvantages they face in climbing the leadership ladder and the glass ceilings they hit, so the beginning of a new decade is a great time to focus our sights through a different lens. It’s time to look at the advantages we have over men. After two decades running my business, here are my thoughts on four of the secret weapons I’ve leant on in scaling up my business.
#1 GOOD BUSINESS MAKES GOOD BUSINESS
It’s now a well-documented case that many female entrepreneurs set up their own businesses on a mission to make an impact on an issue close to their heart, with countless successful businesses set up on the back of this premise, from Holly at NOTHS to Fiona at Totsbots. Whilst in the past, the key driver for our male counterparts has often been focused entirely on making money and provide for the family. This sense of a purpose beyond purely profit is very natural to women and a secret weapon particularly in the upcoming decade when consumers are demanding more from brands than ever before, no longer the empty ‘promise’ purpose, but evidence of real action and impact. Last year’s call for people to fly ‘more responsibly’ from KLM is a great example of how brands can capitalise on delivering more beyond profit.
TIP: If you’re passionately on a mission, shout about it. Customers will admire you and buy from you as a result.
#2 BALANCED REALISTIC RISK MANAGEMENT
Another well-documented fact is that female business leaders appear to take a more cautious approach to risk. This is born out by the significantly fewer female calls for funding and fewer female led businesses in the ‘scale up’ camp, however this is usually viewed as a weak- ness. Looking at it through a different lens we see that in our current VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) economic and political environment, a more balanced view of risk could serve very well.
TIP: Caution and risk management is a key part of good leadership not necessarily your imposter syndrome getting the better of you.
#3 TUNED IN TO CUSTOMERS
It’s becoming obvious that there’s a significant miss fit between the diversity of consumers (those with the buying power) and those leading the organisations selling products. For example, research shows that women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions, whilst we certainly aren’t matching that in the C-suite. Instead of focusing on how few females there are in boardrooms, it’s time to optimise this massive opportunity by better tuning into why and how women buy and disrupt traditionally male industries, like automotive and electronics.
TIP: You know consumers better than men because you are one. Stop following the rules and make up some new rules for the decade to come.
#4 AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP
And finally, another, often overlooked, secret weapon in the female armoury is their natural leadership style. Modern day leadership requires leaders to be authentic, accessible and even vulnerable, traits that traditionally male leaders have struggled with while female leaders are often more empathetic, approachable and open to diversity.
TIP: Don’t try to copycat male leaders that you aspire to. Take the good bits, for sure, but be comfortable to find your own leadership style and be yourself.
In summary, the decade to come brings a huge opportunity for women, we need to stop looking at the reasons not to grab opportunities and, instead, seize the day.