Independence Referendum – Women Voting No

Lesley Riddoch wrote a while ago about this issue and I wanted to add my own thoughts, as I am a female business woman working and growing a business in the UK, based in Scotland.

The issue she discussed in her article was why women are lagging behind in the rush to vote Yes. As a female entrepreneur, the notion articulated by Professor John Curtice that “women lack the hunter-gatherer instinct and tend to be home-makers not risk-takers” is a view that belongs quite firmly in the man-cave that the Professor must occupy. Seriously, are we STILL debating whether women’s brains are up to it? Surely, we have evolved beyond that? Well, we have but it seems some of our fellow men have not.

Lesley’s view is one that I support wholeheartedly….”I’ve argued women fear independence might only mean limitless power for the unreconstructed dinosaurs that sadly still abound in Scotland – self-important, puffed up men (and women) who are hostile to minorities, social change and non-hierarchical ways of working”.

Having started-up my business over five years ago, survived the recession, grown and then restructured the business for future growth, I have earned my entrepreneur wings. Female entrepreneurship is an economic issue not a “female” issue and is one the other countries like the US have embraced. The US now has supplier diversity laws that require a certain percentage of supply chain purchases to come from female-owned businesses. We need both men and women to support women to start-up AND grow businesses.

Sadly, some of the so called business leaders that I have come across in Scotland belong firmly in the “unreconstructed dinosaurs” camp, with name-calling, belittling, sexist put-downs the norm. And woe betide letting any one know you might be a female entrepreneur that is also a MOTHER!! Then all respect goes right out the window. When I won Mumpreneur of the Year in 2010, the Chairman of a well established business networking group in Scotland congratulated me in a public forum but then went on to suggest that I might also go for the “Dumbpreneur” award next time. What astounding ignorance.

Is it any wonder that I chose to network and grow my business in London/Europe/US rather than look to my own country for that support? And that is a currently devolved country. As for what it would be like as a fully independent country, it makes me shudder.

So, Professor Curtice, it is not that my brain is wired to knit scarves and cook up a storm in the kitchen. It is actually wired to be courageous, brave, creative, intelligent, innovative and most of all entrepreneurial and believe me, if you want to be a female entrepreneur in Scotland, you are going to need all of those attributes.


Is Diversity the key to Innovation?

Last week was a week of exploring diversity. I attended the Women’s Business Forum in Harrogate as a guest of RBS. This was a conference exploring diversity in the corporate world and looking at some of the practical solutions to help more women get to the top and get on to boards. Later in the week, I met with the Chief Executive of Corporate Banking, Chris Sullivan and other senior members of RBS, as well as some inspiring Scottish female entrepreneurs to discuss female entrepreneurship in Scotland.

To my mind, the low numbers of females in the board-room and the low numbers of female entrepreneurs are linked. These are two sides of the same coin. Lack of confidence is a recurring theme for both females in business and females in the corporate world. I am a confident woman but I have had my confidence severely knocked both in the corporate world and as the CEO of my own business. That doesn’t mean to say there is something wrong with me or that I have to act like one of the boys to get on. No, I think it is linked to a much deeper issue. It is one of CULTURE.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a bra-burning feminist. I am not bemoaning my lot. I am not using this as an excuse because I can’t be bothered working hard. Far from it. I need my bra, I have a brain and I work extremely hard. But I am also a mother. Yes, women have the babies. And a lot of women feel that they should put their family before their career and their business. That is exactly natural. But WHY should we have to choose? We have to choose because of CULTURE.

We have a culture in the Western world that does not accommodate diversity. Often it is dominated by white males. Whether that is in our board rooms or on the investment panels of the people I am hoping to impress for an investment. It is not a culture that supports the flexible working/creative working/confidence building building bricks that we need to have a truly diverse culture. We have a diverse society. Women and men, we are all from different backgrounds, straight or gay, white or black. The human race is diverse. It has to be. This is not about bashing white males, we need them! We just need everyone else too!We HAVE a diverse society already – we just need to support it in a DIVERSE CULTURE.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett( President of the Center for Talent Innovation in New York) talked a lot about the link between diversity and innovation last week. She also spoke about the problems caused by no diversity of thought – “group think”. She has participated in studies showing that a diverse board affects the bottom line as diversity of thought leads directly to innovation.

Looking at diversity of thought, I think we see a fantastic argument for chipping away at the lack of diversity so prevalent in our culture. Diversity contributes to ideas and there is a real connection between diversity and innovation. Creativity and innovation are key to growing our economy, creating entrepreneurship and growing sustainable profitable companies. If we can only start to see more diversity across the whole of our culture, then what will the future look like? Innovative, creative, expansive and exciting. This isn’t a “women’s” issue. It is an evolutionary issue.