why is it so hard to bulldoze that glass ceiling?
In the twenty first century, Millicent Fawcett and co. would probably have presumed that women would have firmly found their feet in the world of work. The Gender Pay Gap would be a thing of the distant past, the prospect of bias based on sex in the work place a mere memory.
Despite many hard-won victories by women in work, we are yet to achieve that envisaged by such pioneers. A recent #DCD survey found that an alarming 9 out of 10 women faced barriers when returning to employment post-partum. An even more unsettling statistic was produced, indicating that a meagre 16% of those returning to work were able to achieve the goal reached by so many of their male colleagues – to set up a business of their own.
The survey was able to identify three central obstacles that female entrepreneurs face when beginning their business-building journey:
- Securing clients
- Depth of knowledge around Business setup – admin, IT, tax, and so on.
- Sourcing sufficient capital to setup a practice.
These barriers begin to form as soon as a woman enters the workplace. An industry based on the principle that men are its leaders does not empower its young, female employees to form the foundations of relationships with those that will go on to become potential clients.
Society tells us that it is not a woman’s place to start her own business – leave that to her husband. Education of such robust, unladylike realms such as IT and Taxes is not contemplated when she is embarking upon her career.
The Gender Pay Gap has, after no little effort, become a recognised thorn in the side of any industry. Less well bemoaned is the Investment Gap, a phenomenon that appears to trigger this cycle of female banishment from industry. Research carried out in 2018 found that in the US in the previous year, businesses founded and led by women received 2.2% of total venture capital funding. Enraging, yes. Surprising? No.
In the United Kingdom during the same year, a whopping 84% of venture capital investment deals were handed to all-male teams. Mixed sex start-ups were seemingly inhibited by their gender inclusivity as they made up a paltry 12%. Unsurprisingly, all-female teams were sadly neglected by investors.
The men by whom and for whom this system was built have deigned to recognise that this gap in capital could potentially be posing as a barrier against women in the world of work. Efforts have seemingly been made to plug the gap, but this is arguably too little too late. Less than 1% of venture capital investment per year is targeted in an effort to do just that whilst entrepreneurs who have the misfortune of being women are turned away again and again.
Childbearing, birthing, and rearing were once seen as the cornerstone of women’s roles in society. It may come as no surprise therefore that having fulfilled this universal expectation, an individual returning to the workplace is associated with disappointingly feminine attributes more so than before and more barriers are placed. Glatz and Sharma have astutely noted that the values of the ‘alpha-female’ such as those associated with having a child are not those that enable one to reach the lofty heights of their industry. If one is to do so in the business and investment world, then chameleon-like camouflage is required to temper the fears of her colleagues whilst being careful not to be seen as ‘too ambitious’, or ‘overly masculine’. God forbid.
It understandably follows that such obstacles and theatrics are commonplace in the world of construction. We work tireless to ensure that as a company we are doing everything that we can to bridge this gap in our business. Tired of fighting an uphill battle with your women-led start-up? Join our efforts and help us to help you build the foundations of a gender-inclusive construction industry.