The Female Business Owners Changing Our Perceptions of Male-Dominated Industries.

International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day at Love Finance, we wanted to chat with our clients about their experience working in male-dominated industries. We also discussed their thoughts on the day and why we still need to champion and encourage women in business.

In 2021, the percentage of women in senior management roles grew to 31% – the highest it has ever been. However, men still occupy a vast majority of said roles.

100 Women in Finance is an organisation who want to create a more welcome and equal environment within the finance sector. They have proposed the Vision 30/40 campaign to employ women in 30% of senior investment roles and executive committee positions by 2040.

Our Clients’ Experience

One of our long-term clients, Ann Herberts, director of MGG Scaffolding, has worked in the construction industry for over 30 years. Construction is a heavily male-dominated industry, with women only making up 13% of the workforce.

“Our clients take us seriously. They’ve got a lot of respect for me. I run a tight ship.”

Before entering the construction world, Ann had worked as a hairdresser, primarily with women. Naturally, she experienced some concerns about the idea of moving into such a male-dominated area.

“We started with nothing, and it was tough; it was a different world then, with women in business.”

Another long term contact of Love Finance is Leah Withers, director of Esher Scaffolding, who echoed Ann’s worries,

“Going into scaffolding, I was slightly anxious as it meant I had to go to National Construction College, knowing I would be the only woman there.”

However, similarly to Ann, her doubts never actualised,

“I felt nervous about the prospect of seeing loads of men, but as soon as I entered, it was fine.”

“I’ve done my job. People have never treated me any differently just because I’m a woman. They’re far more inclusive than they used to be.”

There are currently only six qualified female scaffolders in the UK due to the scale of its physical demand. Ann’s job consists primarily of clerical work, bookings, training, finances, general organisation; however, she still gets involved with the physical side wherever she can.

“My daughter-in-law and I will go into the yard and service our equipment; we will do manual labour. We don’t just sit in an office.”

“Everything we can do for the company, we will do it. You have to get stuck in there.”

“Women can’t do everything, and men can’t do everything; they have to work together to pick up where the other lacks.”

Leah has worked at Esher for just over seven years. Previously, she owned a painting and decorating business.

“I generally only employed women, and people loved it. There was certain clientele who appreciated the fact that the business was mostly women.”

We also spoke to Marian Norman, Nian Concepts & Design director, who specialise in bespoke furniture, design and carpentry business across London and Hertfordshire. She owns the business with her partner, who takes on the manual labour, whilst she works on designs and liaises with clients.

A running theme across each interview was that, though no one had experienced direct prejudice due to being a woman, they felt they had to make their work speak for itself to ensure that customers took them seriously.

Marian expressed that she has occasionally been met with apprehension,

“Clients think I’m inexperienced or like I don’t know what I’m talking about, then they talk with me and they see that I do know what I am talking about.”

Women in Business

While there is progress to be made, more young women than ever are being encouraged to take on apprenticeships and jobs in male-dominated industries. Companies such as P&O Ferries provide schemes that encourage women and girls and allow them to enter employment they otherwise may not be able to.

According to the 2017 Young Women’s Trust report, men outnumber women by twenty-five to one in leading sectors such as engineering.

To rectify this issue, we have to address the root of the problem. Women have to be encouraged from a young age and grow up believing that they can achieve anything they want. Once this happens, there should be natural growth in women accepted into male-dominated workspaces.

As a step towards this, the Young Womens’ Trust suggested that the government consider additional payments when recruiting women apprentices to target the pay gap. They also proposed extra measures such as setting targets, training courses and adapting their language in job adverts.

Studies show that around 40% of women in engineering end up leaving the sector. We need to be doing work along the career path, providing women with the support and encouragement they need to stay in the job.

Women & Business Loans

Additionally, women may have anxieties about applying for business funding as studies have shown that they are less likely to receive it. According to Forbes, under 1% of UK venture funding is granted to women. We asked our clients about their experience applying for and receiving their funding.

Leah said,

“I have used Love Finance for the past three years for a variety of financial assistance & have always received impeccable service. Our company has to meet demands with very short notice at times & the turnaround received from Love Finance has been most efficient.”

Marian:

“Love Finance was extremely helpful in finding the right funding for my business. The whole process was quick and easy. I would definitely recommend them to any business.”

Ann:

“We have always had excellent service from Love Finance. Responses are quick, and everyone you speak to is professional.”

Suppose more female-owned and female-led businesses can see that being a woman won’t hold them back. In that case, the gender gap in specific industries can reduce.

International Women’s Day

We asked each of our interviewees their thoughts on International Women’s Day. Marian said,

“It’s a celebration of women in aspects of life. It’s something to be proud of, and it’s lovely.

“If anything, we should celebrate women more often. As much as we are trying, women are not equal to men. If we don’t celebrate, we ignore that there is a difference.”

Leah added,

“There are two ways to look at it – we, of course, want to champion women, but we must also tread carefully. People should treat everyone the same irrespective of their gender.”

While she believes that we shouldn’t view women in business differently, she did say that it’s brought a different dynamic to Esher,

“Men have needed to talk about things they maybe wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to another man. They’ve felt comfortable talking to me about those things.”

“There is a stereotypical view of scaffolders, and I know I’m biased, but we have a friendly atmosphere and morale.”

Ann continued,

“International Women’s Day portrays how women are coming up globally, representing them fairly. We are as good and as capable as men.

“The way things are now, in contrast to when I was 15, the difference is fantastic. Everything has opened up.

We’re able to go into jobs that we never would’ve been able to imagine before.”

She’s very optimistic about the changes coming about in the working world,

“I love to see women going into business and engineering roles; you’d never see that back in the day. The women stayed home, and the men went to work, whereas so many more women are directors now, which is wonderful. I’m in awe of women who do these jobs.”

Read more:
The female business owners changing our perceptions of male-dominated industries.