The gender equation

Are female entrepreneurs more likely to make it through a downturn?

A man’s perplexing reluctance to a) admit he is lost or b) ask for directions has formed the basis of many a comedy sketch. But it has now been suggested that such self-reliance significantly affects the way men run a business.

In fact, a controversial survey released last week found that a man’s innate faith in his inner GPS not only makes him falsely confident of finding your holiday retreat in the Lake District unassisted, but also less likely to steer a business through a recession. Meanwhile, the survey said the more open and collaborative approach typically employed by women makes them better equipped to survive a downturn.

However, before all our male readers reach for the mouse button (if you haven’t already) it’s worth noting that ALL of the respondents were women. The opinions of 300 female delegates at Business Link’s We Mean Business event were canvassed to compile the research. So not the most objective survey in the world, but it does raise some interesting points about approaches to business.

Many of the female entrepreneurs at the event felt certain attributes put them in a strong position to survive a recession. Reasons cited included: women are more likely to seek independent advice before disaster strikes; women are better planners and good at improvising if they need to; they’re also typically better at sharing experiences both good and bad and less driven by the idea of big bucks.

Whether these are inherently female characteristics or not is debatable. But that said, the business landscape is changing and the ability to be flexible, to listen to what your customers really want and give it to them and to recognise when you need help and ask for it, will all prove useful when it comes to navigating its new contours.

Here’s what some of the women present had to say…

Bola Akinseye, founder of stationery designer Makeover Designs:

“[Women] listen more to people, we’re not testosterone-driven – this is what you need, and this is the only way you can have it. We’re more dynamic, I’m a lot more dynamic, and the clients feel that I’m working for them. And also, we’re better at keeping in touch with them and more adaptable to changing needs.”

Penny Power, founder of business social network Ecademy:

“I don’t think women build empires as much as men do, I think women understand about collaboration and sharing tasks and they’ll probably have built a business that’s much leaner and more able to adapt through a credit crisis time.”

Jill Shepherd, founder of Bamboo Learning, which teaches Mandarin to children:

“I’m not sure whether women are better or worse at dealing with a recession, I think they’re better at certain things. Women are great at multi-tasking and are generally very good at coping with stress.I don’t think they’re as good or as instinctive risk-takers as men are but I think when they do take the risk they are more able to hold things together.”

Liz Jackson, founder of Great Guns Marketing:

I have to say my men are pretty resilient. I think women and men together can face anything, and I think a brilliant team made up of people that are strong in all sorts of different areas can just about achieve anything. Any organisation that doesn’t have a mixed board is losing out.

Women have amazing attributes, we’re brilliant communicators and I actually think women make better salespeople. We just lose out because we’re so underrepresented. 16% [female-owned business in London] is atrocious. It should be 50-50.” 

Are women better equipped to survive an economic downturn? Does gender really make a difference? Tell us your views in the box below…



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