By Ali Golds
Named as one of The Independent’s 20 Extraordinary Women of 2017, Ali Golds is a growth coach, speaker, and author who helps women to achieve their best - both personally and through their business. She has worked with start-ups through to multi-million-pound companies, as well as advised awarding bodies and other leading education based organisations on enterprise and entrepreneurship; culminating in being appointed lead adviser on a UK government review of entrepreneurship education, 'Enterprise For All', in 2014. Ali specialises in coaching female founders, particularly single mums and women who’ve experienced domestic abuse, and is passionate about empowering them to achieve economic independence.
I’ve been running my own businesses for almost twenty years now, and I wouldn’t change being my own boss for the world. I get the chance to do something I love, make a difference, do things I would probably have never done and meet people I would never have met, and can direct my career in any way I want it to go. All in all, it’s the perfect way of life for me.
I’ve also been fortunate to coach, and work alongside, lots of women who either want to or have started their own businesses too. Most of them have taken the leap because they’ve reached a stage in their life where it makes sense – either they’ve become mums, or they have done all they want in their employed career and now want to try something different.
However, despite more women taking up the mantle of self-employment, the figures for female owned businesses are still disappointingly low – just 17% - and yet women make successful entrepreneurs. So what’s the disconnect, and why do we need more women running businesses anyway?
Firstly, I don’t think women like the term entrepreneur; if they label themselves at all it tends to be ‘businesswoman’ or ‘mumpreneur’ – and there’s the problem. I don’t see dads calling themselves dadpreneurs, in fact the ones I asked wouldn’t dream of using that term, yet women do – and it’s a mindset. They don’t see themselves as ‘proper’ business owners, more a mum playing at it, and that’s wrong! The impact of women running businesses, especially mums, is felt far and wide – in families, wider social circles, and in business in general.
There are very few high profile female entrepreneurs, which is a shame, as women who see other women running businesses are able to use them as role models. This is key in encouraging women to start businesses.
There’s a school of thought that believes if you educate a girl, if/when she becomes a mum, she can educate a new generation. It’s the same in business. If we encourage more women to start businesses, and then speak about their journey, they will act as a catalyst for more women to become their own boss.
I’d like women who run businesses, particularly those who sell their product or service to other women, to start talking about why they started up, what their successes are, what the lessons are, and become more visible – not just for their business, but for themselves too.
Secondly, women make better entrepreneurs. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; they plan more, they are more cautious so less inclined to take risks (good and bad, I’ll grant you) and more likely to run the financial side of their business in a prudent way. Banks, investors, and loan companies, in particular, want to lend to more women. Communities need small businesses even more than they need big ones, and let’s not forget that only a tiny percentage of businesses in the UK are large corporates; women tend to run these small businesses. The more we have, the more employment opportunities there are, and the more we can raise families out of poverty and towards economic independence.
And thirdly, women bring a different dimension to business. The way we do business is very male; the language used, the way we interact, even down to the thinking processes that underpin business planning. If we want business to change and grow, and I’m all for that, we need to have the input of women. So how do we do that? We start with encouraging them to run a business. Then help them to scale up, to grow, and then to think outside their own business towards other people’s businesses. Taking on a non-exec role perhaps, that first step into the boardroom of a bigger business and, eventually, into the engine room of the corporate world.