What women want and how franchising can help them get it

From gender pay gap reporting to campaigns designed to support women in business, we're heading in the right direction. But what can be done to ensure the franchising sector becomes less of a male-driven environment?

What women want and how franchising can help them get it

Months have passed since gender pay gap reporting came into force. The legislation meant UK businesses with more than 250 staff were legally required to reveal the wage gaps between male and female workers by Friday April 6 2018. Although 1,500 companies shockingly failed to meet the deadline, the majority of firms did indeed divulge their numbers and some of them were appalling. Ryanair was among those paying women significantly less than men, with a median gap of 71.8%.

But what about gaps in the franchising sector? Well, McDonald’s reported a 0% median pay gap, as did KFC. However, they’re just two companies, albeit particularly large ones, so that’s not entirely an accurate representation of the market.

We know the business sector is a male-dominated industry and so is franchising – but the latter provides more opportunities to thrive, according to Paul Clegg, co-chair of Encouraging Women In Franchising (EWIF). He points to the support and training female franchisees will receive from the franchisor because it should be the same for all regardless of gender. However, it would seem women aren’t capitalising on the chance to earn more due to various factors. “There is a gap in the number of women entering higher earning franchise opportunities, compared to men, with the majority of them choosing lifestyle models,” Clegg says. “We have heard EWIF members discussing how they’d lacked confidence to run a business. There is undoubtedly also the time and money restrictions women have placed upon them by their circumstances, which men simply don’t have to deal with, as a result of earning less and having to work around family.”

According to research from Access Commercial Finance, the business finance provider, female founders aren’t given the same treatment as men. A review of over 800 startup funding applications from 2016 found the average female entrepreneur secures 44p for each £1 a male counterpart pockets. By comparison, franchising is a “less risky business opportunity” Clegg says, allowing both women and men to adapt it around their lives, which is trickier as an employee. “Instead of being a slave to an employer nine to five, they can choose how to structure their career and their working life around the kind of life they want to live – whether this is to support children and family, travel the world or pursue hobbies.”

With EWIF so central to championing what women in franchising are doing, Clegg explains there’s definitely been an increase in the amount embracing the industry, recognising it as a viable career prospect. “As you look around the franchising sector there are many great women in high-profile roles who are showing what can be achieved,” he says. “More and more women are entering franchising as they see the opportunities it presents. So as franchising grows, so will the number of women who become involved.” Believing it will take time with work still to be done, Clegg says that the franchising industry as a whole needs to promote itself as a route to business ownership with fewer risks. If that happens amidst the rise of an already growing number of female franchisees, we’ll be on the right track, he adds. “We all have a responsibility to share our success stories and inspire others to be a part of what is happening,” Clegg says.

World Options, the shipping and logistics franchise, is among the companies promoting franchising and in March a campaign tied in nicely with International Women’s Day. Surveying 558 women across the UK, it was clear that many wanted to end the daily grind of working for someone else that Clegg spoke of. As such, the franchisor found that a quarter of UK women surveyed wanted to work on their own steam within the next ten years. Youth was a factor in the decision, as 57% of those aged 26 to 40 wanted to work for themselves.

With youth in mind, Hannah Drury, is one franchisee that has a true passion for the industry and is acting as something of a franchising flag-waver. A franchisee of Caremark, the home-care franchise, Drury was named Young Woman in Franchising at the NatWest EWIF Awards 2018 in May and also Young Franchisee of the Year and Franchisee of the Year in 2017 at the bfa HSBC Franchise of the Year Awards. Around the time of International Women’s Day, she said: “We have a workforce that is majority women and we are all about building up the incredible women that we know. So as leaders in our company we spend a lot of time and effort inspiring and motivating all the women. We try and be as flexible as possible, enabling women to work while balancing all the other [aspects of their lives].”

Someone who can appreciate the support of an employer like Drury is Ali Beckman, the technical director and head teacher at Puddle Ducks, the swimming lessons franchise. Beckman also took home gold at the EWIF Awards 2018 having won the Woman Franchisee Employee of the Year and Overall Woman in Franchising awards. Offering her thoughts on the UK gender pay gap, she admitted there is work that needs to be done but was pleased Britain has a lower gap than the US.

Interestingly, while part of the gender pay gap issue is down to fewer women in senior positions having been met with a glass ceiling, that’s not the case for Puddle Ducks franchisees – quite the reverse in fact. “The majority of our franchisees are women whom have come from a variety of backgrounds, mainly high-level professional roles,” says Beckman. “None have left their role because they felt undervalued or underpaid – they have just decided they wanted to focus on their own business and gain the work-life balance they deserve.” She notes that running a company around family is a big draw for women as they can still have a successful career while being a mother. “The earning potentials vary from franchise to franchise but there are several Puddle Ducks franchisees who are matching and exceeding their income from their previous professional lives,” details Beckman.

Seemingly, franchising has less of an issue around pay but more of an issue to attract women overall. Beckman is pleased with work from the likes of the bfa and EWIF and confident the scene will eventually be less of a boys’ club. “With more focus on gender pay gaps, more women are taking their career into their hands and are determined they can be successful business women,” she says. “Franchising already offers a work-life balance to women that many professions can’t. We encourage our franchisees to have a medium-long term approach – i.e. that they will work hard and lots of hours initially but hopefully with a view to stepping back in time.”

It’s certainly an interesting method to ensure franchisees don’t become consumed by their work. But franchising needs to start appealing to younger prospects, Beckman believes, if it is to truly cater to women and meet their needs. “I was at a recent forum where the millennials were under discussion in terms of being potential franchisees but very few franchisors had worked out how to get to this audience yet,” she says. “And education at an early stage and at key career decision-making points is important. So in terms of a key measure, I would say looking at the demographic of women in franchising and looking for a broad range within this.”

Zen Terrelonge
Zen Terrelonge