"Women need to know that even if they have never programmed a line of code in their lives, there is a great variety of user-friendly tech solutions to explore and implement, allowing people from all walks of life to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs."
I was struck by a line in a Mail On Sunday article about Julia Reynolds, the women responsible for transforming Tesco's clothes operation — she's moving to a dotcom.
The article is about how she couldn't stand the macho dickheads running Tesco any longer and was packing her trunk and leaving.
"I'd just had my fill of chest-beating alpha males. I had some of the most horrendous things said to me and it is only now that I can laugh about them."What interested me is that she'd choosen a dotcom, online retailer figleaves.com — something she said she wouldn't have entertained only two years ago.
She remembers comments such as, 'Who the f*** are you to be driving a [nice] car like that?' and 'Who the f*** do you think you are to have a big job like that?'
Obviously, this isn't 2001 and the general business viability of dotcoms in the UK is pretty well established now. Or is it? A BBC Money Programme story last week looked at a women dotcom entrepeneur and she related just how difficult it was to get start-up capital. She finally found 'angel' investors but it was very hard and you were left wondering if being a woman was a hindrance with getting investors.
Women's relationship with the web is evolving. In 2007, eMarketer predicted there would be 97.2 million U.S. female Internet users aged 3 and older, or 51.7 per cent of the total online population.
A recent study by the Pew Internet Project in America on teens in social media found that blogging growth among teenagers is almost entirely fuelled by girls — it describes them as a new breed of “super-communicators”.
- Some 35% of girls, compared with 20% of boys, have blogs
- 32% of girls have their own websites, against 22% of boys
- Girls have embraced social networking sites on a massive scale, with 70% of American girls aged 15-17 having built and regularly worked on a profile page on websites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, as opposed to 57% of boys of the same age
- But boys are twice as likely to post videos online
Game-Vision showed that 30% more women bought computer games in the six months to July 31, 2007, than in the same period in 2006. The survey also found that there were more female owners of Nintendo’s handheld DS console in the UK than men (54% against 46%). The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) says that women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (31 per cent) than boys age 17 or younger (20 per cent).
According to the US National Foundation of Women Business Owners (NFWBO):
- 26% of the 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S now have homepages (compared to 16% of men business owners).
- 17% of women business owners now cite business growth as is the most important reason for using new technology, compared to just 10% of men business owners.
But Carol Dukes, ex-managing director of EMAP online and Carlton online, cautions about the focus on so-called 'dotcomdivas'.
If you look at the actual numbers of women doing start-ups, there are very few of us - maybe three out of 100 companies. We are still treated like a freak show: "Check it out! It's a woman running an Internet company!" There are women opening hairdressing salons, shops and PR agencies and nobody turns a hair.I had a look to see what the government is doing in this area. There appears to be a lot of concern - and funding - to improve the numbers of women scientists and engineers, but not web entrepreneurs. In sharp contrast to the States, there doesn't appear to be much coming from government which is aimed specifically at women. What I did find on the primary service, BusinessLink, specifically about the web and women, was one broken link.
Internet-based businesses are described as perfect for women who need to juggle family commitments and need flexible working.
Research, commissioned by insurance group AXA found that 34% of new and expectant women were planning to set up their own business from home.
The most popular ways of doing this were to use the web and email to carry on offering professional skills like accountancy on a consultancy basis, or to move into retail - buying or selling goods on email or launching a mail order service.
Shriti Vadera MP:
Getting more women into business is a challenge, not just for gender equality but for national economic success. We would have 700,000 more businesses if proportionally as many British women as American women started businessesShaa Wasmund, a serial entrepreneur who has worked with inventor and business tycoon James Dyson says.
We need to completely and utterly rethink business support. It needs to be overhauled right the way up from the Learning and Skills Council up to the small business advisory services like Business Link.More use of technology, particularly the internet, is the key to this, she says.
These services need to be real and relevant for women, not just run by civil servants.
Better government support for women web entrepreneurs isn't about 'PC' — it's about growing the economy and making the most of all the talents.