This week, on International Women’s Day, it was announced that 200 business leaders have written an open letter to the Government calling for measures to boost female entrepreneurship in Britain and to “help close the funding gap which prevents many women from starting their own businesses.”
The campaign (backed by the Telegraph) highlights the enormous and largely untapped business potential of female entrepreneurs in the UK, many of whom are thwarted in their efforts to start a business by the simple refusal of banks, investors and other decision makers to take them seriously. According to the Entrepreneurs Network, men are 86 per cent more likely than women to be venture capital funded.
As educators of young women, I feel very strongly that we must do everything in our power to bring about change. There is no doubt, that today, starting your own business is a really viable and in fact desirable career choice for many, offering enormous benefits to anyone wishing to embrace the challenges and greater flexibility it offers.
With this very much in mind, Putney High School this year appointed its first ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ as part of the school’s desire to empower students with the know-how and practical skills they will need to set up and succeed in their own businesses. The project shows girls that there is so much more to successful entrepreneurship than just having a great idea. There is enormous skill involved in building and scaling a business, and in navigating the associated fields that come into play, from strategy to finance to marketing.
Simply having the right mindset to grow and maintain a successful enterprise is so fundamental to what we teach at Putney – resourcefulness, innovative thinking, adaptability, problem-solving – these are the “real world skills” that will make all the difference to our students as they walk out of the school gates into the working world of the future.
Yesterday, our PIE (Putney Ideas Exchange) lunchtime talk was delivered by Amy Peake whose work with Loving
Humanity has led her to set up a factory in the Zaatari refugee camp, eight miles from the Syrian border, making sanitary pads for women and girls and crucially, providing employment, hope, friendship and support to some of the most vulnerable and displaced people in the world.
How did Amy achieve such an amazing feat? Well it turns out that a lot of it was just sheer “bloody mindedness” and the simple refusal to take “no” for an answer. Amy’s message was simple: “In life there is 100% no rule book…It’s so important to call things if you see them”. Amy saw a need and did something about it. I hope that many of our girls will have the courage and the conviction to stand up and follow her example.