Who doesn’t love a good discussion at the beginning of the day? Bacon butties, coffee, and a chance to put the world to rights.
At the International Franchise Show on Friday morning, the conversation flowed, as franchisors, franchisees and service suppliers to the franchise industry discussed the position of women within our industry, and the existence of a “glass ceiling”.
Paul Clegg, Managing Director of Coconut Creatives and national co-chair of EWIF, presented the facts to kick-start the conversation, pulling out key issues affecting women in franchising. Looking at Government statistics released at the end of 2017, there is a gender gap between people who are employed full-time compared to part-time, with more men being employed full-time, and more women employed part-time. What is perhaps unsurprising, in light of recent high-profile cases, are the lack of women involved at the top level.
So are women holding themselves back, with their own career choices?
Anne-Marie Martin, diddi dance franchisor, nodded in agreement, “The thing is,” she says, “this is a much bigger issue, stemming from society. Women are traditionally the ‘stay-at-home’ parent, so when they choose to go back to work, they often go back on a part-time basis, working around their children. Actually, franchising is a perfect solution to achieve this.”
Right at Home franchisee, Jenny Madghachian, agreed the issue wasn’t straight-forward.
“I’ve worked with some incredibly smart women,” she says, “but they would never consider owning their own business because of the level of risk involved. They didn’t have the confidence they could succeed, so don’t.”
“It’s a grass roots issue.” agreed Nigel Toplis, Managing Director of The Bardon Group. “When kids go to school, they’re hearing about careers and business, but there is no mention of franchising. If we drive franchising at this stage, we begin to drive more women into franchising anyway.”
Clive Sawyer, CEO of Encouraging Women into Franchising (EWIF) jumped into the conversation pointing out, “We actually have no real female role models in franchising. Who people outside the industry are aware of. The younger girls have no one to look up to.”
“There are a lot of female entrepreneurs out there; and the Government are pushing entrepreneurial ambition, which is good.” says Anne-Marie. “But maybe we need to jump into the conversation saying, ‘yeah, it’s about that – but have you considered franchising as a support basis to make it happen for so many people?’ It’s almost like franchising is disregarded. We aren’t even on the Government’s radar when it comes to backing initiatives aimed at graduates.”
“Franchising is a less risky business start-up.” says Tom Portsey, American CEO of MFV who are hosting The International Franchise Show. “On both sides of the ocean, I suspect the ratio of women involved in franchising is different to the ratio of women in business generally, because franchising is a slightly safer route, for women who want to succeed without the high-risk.”
“You can teach someone to play a piano, but you can’t teach someone to be a pianist.” Says Nigel. “If you’re an entrepreneur, you repeatedly try, and fail until you succeed. If you’re enterprising, you learn from others’ mistakes, to become an excellent franchisee. That’s what we need to encourage.”
From the audience, Kieran James from Paykeepers believes that while things have been difficult, “We’re actually living in the best times for women to be able to use opportunities becoming available to them, over the last couple of years, like support with childcare.”
“So are we letting ourselves down by buying into the stereotypes across the industry?” asked Clive.
“I think people in their twenties have a very different outlook.” Says Louise Harris, from Wilkins Chimney Sweep. “They don’t see it as such an issue, because today, women have a choice. I was challenged by a young man in his twenties who said to me, ‘I don’t understand it. Did women not want to work at the senior level?’ But women of my generation were expected to leave work to look after the family, and we still feel bound by this attitude.”
EWIF has been at the forefront of encouraging women to see the value of franchising as a viable solution for advancing their career, for the last 10 years. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we are aware there is still much to be accomplished. We are #10yearsSTRONG but in time, we could become even stronger.
What do you think? Are women holding themselves back when it comes to owning their own business? Franchising, as a less risky opportunity may well be the perfect solution for some women, within in the business world.
The concluding message of the discussion, was to find a way to change how franchising is understood, from both the grass roots level, right up to the Government.