Despite the significant changes witnessed in the workplace over the past generation, there are still complaints about the existence of a ‘glass ceiling’ for women in business. Some female professionals feel they are denied the same opportunities as similarly qualified male colleagues, which ultimately has the effect of holding back their career progress. Often women feel discriminated against because they take time off to have children, while concerns about an ‘old boys club’ when it comes to hiring remain prevalent.
In a survey conducted by recruitment company Robert Half, more than a third of women surveyed said they had experienced barriers to advancement during their careers. Some 42 per cent of women aged between 18 and 24 claimed that this was the case, followed by 34 per cent of those aged between 35-54 and 26 per cent of women aged 55 and over. Respondents to the study expressed fears about their level of earnings relative to men, the difficulty of the work they are asked to do, and their apparent lack of authority when addressing junior colleagues.
Working around the glass ceiling
Since the 2008-09 recession, there has been a surge in entrepreneurialism in the UK. Many of the people who lost their jobs during the global economic downturn opted to start up their own companies, filling the gaps left in the market by failed businesses. But many other new businesses have been started up by ambitious young people who are not drawn to the traditional career path. With advanced technology skills at their disposal, they have been eager to create, innovate and develop new companies from the start-up stage, often using the internet.
Many of these new entrepreneurs have been young women. With many female professionals feeling held back in the workplace, it’s perhaps little surprise that more are striking out in business for themselves. Rather than experience frustration waiting for promotions, equal pay and an opportunity to show exactly what they can do, these women are becoming their own boss. By founding their own companies, these millennials are working around the issue of the perceived ‘glass ceiling’ – they are the boss from the very beginning.
Why women make such good business people
The success of young women in business in recent years should come as no surprise. There are fantastic opportunities for talented people to start companies and grow them, whether they are male or female. Individuals who have a great idea, an ability to bring it to market, and the enthusiasm and drive to see the project through can make a real splash.
But what is it about female millennials entrepreneurs in particular that makes them so likely to succeed in business? What skills, attributes and opportunities do they have which were not necessarily at the disposal of past generations? What makes female millennials do things differently?
1. Greater confidence
Female professionals believe they have the opportunity to succeed when they start their own companies. They may have concerns about a ‘glass ceiling’ in the corporate sector, but not where they are making the key decisions from the outset. Knowing that consumers are always looking for the best products and services at the best price, millennial business owners feel they are competing on a level playing field. If they are able to deliver, there is nothing to stop customers placing orders and their business turning over a profit.
2. Female role models
In past generations, there were a shortage of female business role models. But today, there are plenty of successful women running companies and building fortunes using their own ingenuity, energy and desire. From global business figures like Sheryl Sandberg, Mary Barra and Susan Wojcicki, to British entrepreneurs like Deborah Meaden, there are a greater number of successful businesswomen than ever before. When female millennials are starting out, they have people to aspire to and learn from.
3. Technology skills
In the digital age, when so many companies are built around ecommerce platforms, having IT skills is all-important. Young business people – of either gender – can use the tech skills they have developed from an early age to give them the edge over older competitors. Their knowledge of software, hardware and mobile technology including apps stands them in good stead when it comes to designing profitable business models and giving consumers what they want.
4. A voice
Social media has created plenty of new marketing opportunities for new businesses. Anyone can have a voice on Facebook, Twitter and other networking websites, and millennials are taking advantage of this to market their own companies and reach out to a malleable audience. Young people have grown up with social media and know how to use it to their advantage. Many of the customers they are reaching out to are also active on social media, meaning there is a clear opportunity to make new connections and generate customer loyalty.
Society is eager to shake off the inequality of the past and allow talent to thrive, whether male or female, young or old. The general public is not willing to accept discrimination, and although some business sectors are proving slower than others to catch up, women have more support and encouragement in business than ever before. Society is embracing modern-day female business leaders and accepting them as the norm, making it easier for those who follow in their slipstream.