JOIN OUR BIG DEBATE: Is enough being done to support women in business?

Women still suffer from inequality in business, despite progress in recent years (pic by Tim Goode/P

Women still suffer from inequality in business, despite progress in recent years (pic by Tim Goode/PA) - Credit: EMPICS Entertainment

Gender equality in the world of business has progressed to such a level that the UK now has its highest ever employment rate for women. Despite this, inequality of pay between men and women still raises questions of whether enough is being done to give people a fair chance in business regardless of gender. Some feel that more action is needed to encourage and ensure that women receive fair treatment and flourish in business as a result – others think that it is up to individuals to make the most of their skills and secure their own success.

Left, Di Gowland (pic by Michael Cockerham) and right, Ngozi Muoneke (pic by Tina Fayem).

Left, Di Gowland (pic by Michael Cockerham) and right, Ngozi Muoneke (pic by Tina Fayem). - Credit: Archant

Di Gowland, principal at Newham College thinks that more needs to be done to address gender inequality in the business world, as she explains:

The 21st century has seen a radical shift for women, who now represent 42 per cent of the UK’s workforce, 55pc of university graduates and are far more economically independent.

But the challenge remains with equality of pay and senior positions – with women generally earning £140,000 less than men over their working career. This inequality is further compounded among working mothers who struggle to find suitable employment or climb the career ladder while balancing the needs of their children.

The Women’s Business Council was set up to tackle these issues and has made huge strides working with employers and external agencies to influence working practices, company policies and employer mindsets. As a result, the UK has its highest ever employment rate for women – more than two thirds of women in employment – a figure set to grow.

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At Newham College, we have been working for many years with partners including Newham Council and Newham Chamber of Commerce supporting women in business. These initiatives include apprenticeships, work-based qualifications, employability skills, business start-up support and mentoring schemes.

The College’s Women’s Business Centre helped hundreds of female-owned start-ups and we have recently expanded the offering to all start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises with the new Stratford Business Lab, funded by the European Social Fund and Skills Funding Agency.

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There are 1.4million self-employed women in the UK and it is estimated that about 300,000 are mothers. Female entrepreneurship is growing exponentially, but these women need the right support to succeed in business.

We applaud all projects that support women in business, but there is still a long way to go to address inequality between men and women. We need more government investment to develop innovative ways to help more women succeed.

But Ngozi Muoneke, CEO at M3 Cosmetics Ltd, thinks that the key to getting women into business lies with the individual:

My company, M3 Cosmetics Ltd, formulates and manufactures skin care, hair care and personal care products for all skin types.

My products are currently in the Middle East, West Indies and South America. When I started my business two years ago I already had the skills and a clear vision for my brand and company.

What I didn’t have was the resources, which is what always hinders new ventures.

I have always been an individual that took pride in hard work.

With strategic planning, patience and perseverance, I managed to avoid borrowing from a bank or taking out a loan by allowing my business to grow organically and following these simple steps:

Timing – if you need the capital to finance your business, look at your business needs first before assuming you’re ready for external finances, you or your business may not be ready for such a commitment, allowing a business to grow organically is the best approach for most start-ups.

Networking – this helps you meet influential people in your industry. Talking to the right people may generate fruitful opportunities.

Cutting back – be strategic with your money, take part-time jobs if you have too and cut back on things that are not necessary. Be tactical exchange your skills with others that may volunteer their time instead of money. Why pay for something when you can do it yourself? I had no skills in design, but by following a simple “how to” video on YouTube you can save money and add to your credentials.

Patience and perseverance – passion and commitment to your vision is what really promotes growth in a business.

Without belief, the business has already failed.

Financial gain is just a bonus and the reward for the fruits of your labour.

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