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Women in Leadership: Why business is GREAT

Rhian Morgan

The government’s Business is GREAT campaign is backing David Cameron’s announcement that women now make up a quarter of all board members in the UK FTSE 100 companies. Rhian Morgan discusses the latest government initiatives, and talks to Sandy Ruddock about being an ambassador for Business is GREAT, running a successful business, and her top tips for businesswomen

There were a few bits of good news this week. Firstly, women now make up 25% of all board members in the UK FTSE 100 companies. And secondly, Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that he will tackle the gender pay gap. As of early next year, every company with more than 250 employees will have to publicly state the difference in the amount they pay male and female employees. This is especially relevant to management, as women are paid 16% less than men currently, exceeding the average pay gap of 9.4%.

However, critics say that these measures aren’t enough. Nearly all female board members are non-executive, brought in to advise but with no direct say in the everyday running of a company. The number of women at executive board level, the level at which decisions are actually made, is a paltry 8.6%. However, although no company has reached gender parity some, like Diageo, and Admiral, have come close. And Lloyds has given itself a deadline of 2020 to achieve 40% female senior management, much better than the government’s vague timescale of a generation.

As former Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Jo Swinson put it: “Saying we can afford to wait for another generation to close it is, to put it mildly, unambitious.” An opinion many others, such as the Guardian’s Harriet Minter, echoed. What we also need to do is address many companies’ attitudes. Stop side-lining women who have children and instead, help them back into senior positions, with increased training. This alone would make a huge difference.

On balance, though, the news is positive and it’s good these issues are in the spotlight. Another way the government can help business people is through its Business is GREAT campaign, which supports small- and medium-size businesses to reach their full potential.

One such woman is ambassador for the campaign Sandy Ruddock, who has seen astonishing success in just a few years. She said: “I fervently believe we have an amazing wealth of creativity and entrepreneurship in this country, and I wholeheartedly encourage the support the government and British business offer small businesses to grow.

“I was really pleased to hear its [the campaign’s] support for the Government’s announcement this week. It brings us a little closer to the goal of workplace equality. I started my own sauces and condiments business, Scarlett & Mustard, in 2012, and we achieved 300% growth in our first year. This was followed by 200% in the second year, and 80% in the third year. We started with one person (me) and I’m proud to now employ six full-time staff (four of whom are women).  

“From being stocked in just eight shops in July 2012, we are now in more than 750 independent stores throughout the UK, including some of the most prestigious food halls such as Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. We are also in Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Booths. With the help of UK Trade & Investment, a support strand of the Business is GREAT campaign, we now also export to nine different countries. I’ve learnt a lot on this journey and know how important advice and information from other businesswomen can be.”

Sandy passed on her top tips:

Persistence and determination

“These are two key qualities needed to get a business off the ground. Make sure you’re fit and healthy as you will need to put in a lot of hard work, long hours and energy, with little payback in the first couple of years. Be prepared to be tired and grumpy and still have to be a nice person at home.”

Impeccable organisation

“If you are in a busy household, then good time management, military routines, and excellent communication with other members of the family are critical. If you get them all on board with what you’re trying to do, and appeal to them to help on the domestic front, then it will make life a lot easier.”

Exercise

“I always make sure I have at least an hour’s good exercise every day – for me this is taking the dogs for a brisk walk. I find it clears my head and, when the blood is pumping around my brain, it allows all the creative thoughts to come to the fore. I turn off the ringer on my phone to avoid the temptation of looking at emails and messages during my walk but use it to record ideas and thoughts as they occur to me.”

Let yourself be inspired

“Having inspiring role models is important when starting out in business. Julie Deane, from the Cambridge Satchel Company, is an inspiration – as someone who took a nostalgic idea from their childhood and made it a huge commercial success.”

 

The Business is GREAT campaign offers a range of resources for women on how to start, nurture, scale and grow a business, in addition to a wealth of inspiring stories from other successful female entrepreneurs. Visit www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/women-in-enterprise  for details.

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