Look around and it won’t take long to realise that women are making their mark in business; from The Apprentice and Dragons Den to heading multi-national companies, women all over the world are making us sit up and take notice.
When The Apprentice flew onto our screens earlier this year we were faced with fourteen aspiring entrepreneurs competing for a job with the hugely successful businessman Sir Alan Sugar and one person that made her mark in the first episode was Saira. At first we were all incensed by her seemingly forthright and brash behaviour, but as the end drew near I think most people, even if they wouldn’t dare admit it, were at some point in awe of her fiery determination and ability to get things done. She set out to “give other Asian women the inspiration to go out there and do well in business” and personally I think that she didn’t stop short at Asian women; she inspired ALL women in business. What she proved is that women don’t need to bat their eyelashes to get places and that they can be just as serious about making it as men. It was obvious that the final decision between Saira and eventual winner Timothy was even hard for Sir Alan – a man renowned for his ruthlessness.
Another prominent figure in the business world is Rachel Elnaugh, respected judge on the BBC’s Dragons Den and Chief Executive of Red Letter Days, the company she set up 15 years ago at the tender age of 24. Selling anything from race days to balloon flights and celebrity cooking lessons proved lucrative and although admittedly the business has recently hit some trouble, as a woman in the working world proving that ideas can go far, Ms Elnaugh is an example to follow.
According to government statistics more women than ever before are going it alone. Gone are the days of aging men being at the head of business empires, now we are faced with astute, independent and highly driven young women leading the way. So what makes these women so successful in a world that to some is still predominantly dominated by men?
Determination is important, as is the fearless ability to not to be belittled in the company of men. I think it’s fair to say that women have a lot more to deal with on a day-to-day basis. In a world were the media still often convey women as sex objects, the seriousness of a woman’s desire for success is hard to demonstrate effectively. Not only are they competing for recognition, they are also thinking about things as simple as what clothes to wear to ensure they are putting across the right image, making sure their friendly behaviour could not being construed as using their femininity to get places. Of course, men do have to pay attention to these areas also but women in business seem to have less room for slip-ups and mistakes.
30 per cent of business owners are women (Labour Force Survey 2003) and this is set to increase. Some simply have the drive to build an empire without the maternal longings of their female predecessors, some do want to bring up a family but have moved on from being happy to stay at home ironing and cooking. Women want a slice of career too and by becoming self-employed or setting up alone, in the long run they have the opportunity to fit career around family life. Women have the intelligence, initiative and get-up-and-go to match their counterparts and excel in their chosen profession and they are certainly making this known.