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Female Entrepreneurship - does it matter?

I'm an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Nottingham.  This is a role and a title I was given about 12 months ago but tbh it's only recently that I've worked out what that role is about and how my role as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence can positively impact others.

 

The Ingenuity Lab at the University of Nottingham is an incredible place.  It exists to help University of Nottingham students and alumni to develop their entrepreneurial ambitions.   It has over 2,500 members and over 160 new and early stage start-ups.   Located on the Jubilee Campus surrounded by other architecturally  impressive buildings, the space inside is light and bright and the people who work there are committed to supporting the entrepreneurs who reside there.  I love being on campus and at the Ingenuity Lab - it gives me a real sense of possibility and of learning.

 Image Credit & Graphic Design:  Cherry Anderson

Image Credit & Graphic Design: Cherry Anderson

 

I was invited by Georgina Hall to speak at a roundtable at the Lab and proposed I discussed the question: Female Entrepreneurship - Does it matter?  Selfishly it's a topic I'd been pondering and I wanted to spend some time getting clear in my mind what my thoughts were.  Fortunately for me Georgina also thought it would be a topic which would be of interest!

So.  Does it matter?

On the one hand my skin crawls when I hear terms like (or am called) a fempreneur or mumpreneur or when people (usually men) ask me if my businesses are  'lifestyle businesses' (which seems to be code for "a little hobby on the side").  

On the other hand I understand the need to create identity and belonging.  But for me - these titles are not what's needed.

If you look up entrepreneur in the dictionary there's no mention of gender.  The Oxford Dictionary talks about an entrepreneur being a person who "sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit".  No mention of gender there.  For me - being an entrepreneur is about this but it's also as co-founder of Offset Solar, Konrad Billetz describes: 

Entrepreneurs have the ability to recognise the bigger picture, find where there’s an opportunity to make someone’s life better, design hypotheses around these opportunities, and continually test their assumptions. Entrepreneurs experiment: some experiments will work; many others will fail. Entrepreneurship is not big exits, huge net worth or living a life of glamour. It’s hard work and persistence to leave the world a better place once your time here is done.
— Konrad Billetz, co-founder and co-CEO of Offset Solar

And so again - there's no mention of gender.  And yet somehow, the world of entrepreneurship has become gendered.  Let me share with you how:

 

  • funding
  • digital literacy
  • support
  • networking
  • co-working spaces

Add in data re number of small businesses being created - contributing to GDP.  And female founded businesses.  Check Kathryn Parsons data / stories.

 

What if, these women who are being entrepreneurial or who are considering entrepreneurship where *******  It's why I and 11 local female entrepreneurs are experimenting with a pop-up co-working space (a space to build identity, belonging and frankly to support eachother as we get our entrepreneurial shit together!).

 

So does it matter?  Yes.  But not because we need different titles.  But because we need to develop the confidence to own the job title of entrepreneur - to build our identity and sense of belonging with it.  And if we can do that?  More jobs.  More positive impact.  Greater contribution to GDP.

 

And my role as an E-i-R at Uni of Nottingham?  Off of the back of my talk, I'm now spending a day in September mentoring female entrepreneurs who are part of the Ingenuity Lab.  That's my role.  That's the positive impact I can have.  That's what I'm really excited about.

 

Thanks to Georgina Hall + others - looking forward to hearing about your businesses.

 

 

 

When I founded We Are Unstuck I remember being asked this a lot and when I shared my story about why I'd created my business the response was "oh you're a mumpreneur".  I remember thinking "well, I thought I was being entrepreneurial.  I thought I'd left behind the security of a corporate role to create a new venture".  But maybe 

Why hide my reasons - if anything I'm taking more risk.

 

 

 

I'd love to hear if The 100 Women Project has inspired you or if it's provoked your thinking in some way - drop me a line to let me know.

And if you know someone you think I should interview - please let me know