To celebrate International Women's Day today, Leeds University Business School has asked four leading businesswomen to share their experiences for the next generation of budding entrepreneurs.
Read on for tips and advice from entrepreneur Deirdre Bounds, philanthropist and entrepreneur Dawn Gibbins MBE, fashion entrepreneur Michelle Mone OBE and author and TV presenter Annabel Karmel MBE.
Q. Do you think women are fairly represented in business?
Only if they want to be. Employers need to find a way to keep professional women interested after the age of 35. Many drop out of the rat race because they have a family, but more importantly, many drop out because they don't have the ambition or the ego to continue to fight to stay in top positions.
No, sadly I don’t think they are. While there might be a more equal number of men and woman starting at entry or graduate level, the numbers become more uneven as you move up the job ladder. With the cost of childcare going up and up, often women who want to start a family simply have to stay at home. Quite often, even if they wanted to go back to work, there is very often little choice when it comes to going back to work with flexible hours.
Deirdre Bounds: Employers need to find a way to keep professional women interested after the age of 35
Q. What advice would you give a young female entrepreneur today?
I think regardless of whether you are male or female if you are determined, organised and ambitious you can achieve. Women are often claimed to be better multi-taskers which could give them the advantage but I think it’s more about how you go about achieving. A business mentor is invaluable when it comes to bouncing ideas around. Being an entrepreneur and a CEO can be the loneliest job on the planet because everyone thinks you know everything. It can be more difficult for a woman in business - compared with men - who can discuss business over a game of golf, for instance.
Gather as many good people around you as possible because you never know when you may need their help. I would also say that you need to put in 100 per cent. Do one thing and do it properly - you can’t have your finger in every pie!
Annabel Karmel: There is very often little choice when it comes to going back to work with flexible hours
Q. Can women ‘have it all’, a career and family? If so, how?
I don't believe so - we all have 24 hours in a day and we need to choose what to do with that. However, I would say that there is a possibility of having it all if you have the backing of a good husband or partner.
I hate this expression; I think it puts far too much pressure on women. I personally don’t think you can have a full time career, plus be constantly looking after your children and all the other bits that come with having a family. I think you need to be realistic about what you can manage and if you can be flexible about your work to fit round your family, all the better. I was lucky in that I could work from home when my children were younger and when they were at school age, which was when I could start spending more time on my career.
Michelle Mone: A business mentor is invaluable when it comes to bouncing ideas around
Q. What was the best advice you received when starting out?
Stay strong, believe in yourself. Learn about rapport so you can work well with your customers and your team.
When you choose what you want to do, choose something that you love and do your research; look for a gap in the market.
Business is like a game; don't take it too seriously and enjoy what you do, as you spend too much time doing it!
Don’t give up if you believe in an idea.
Q. What significance do you think International Women’s Day holds?
Annabel Karmel: I think it is very important. I believe we have achieved a lot in this country when it comes to women’s rights, and woman being able to work and have a family, but there is still much that can be done, here and elsewhere.
Michelle Mone: It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to celebrate women’s achievements.
Dawn Gibbins: Stay strong, believe in yourself
Q. If women ruled the world…
Annabel Karmel: A lot more would be achieved in a working day!!
Michelle Mone: It would be amazing!
Deirdre Bounds: They already do!
Dawn Gibbins: The world would live and work in perfect harmony. We would celebrate the divine feminine and masculine in each and every one of us. Balance, harmony, inner peace, love, happiness - we would have it all.