The importance of empowering fellow women in business

Pip Wilkins, the CEO of the bfa, believes women should champion, empower and learn from one another

The importance of empowering fellow women in business

With only 8% of influential non-executive roles being held by women, according to Cranfield School of Management, it’s important to celebrate success and push for more progression. That’s why for the past six years the bfa has been organising an annual women-only event to celebrate the successes of women in franchising.

This November we’ll have up to 200 women attending, sharing inspiring stories about working against adversity and networking with other like-minded women. Formerly, this was restricted to women in franchising but this year it extends to empowering women in business in general, with key themes revolving around leadership, culture and wellbeing.

Reaching out to our own network as part of a separate editorial campaign around the Empowering Women event, I’ve been wowed by the diverse range of incredible stories women have to tell about business and franchising. But Lesley Wallace, a Dream Doors franchisee and a multiple award-winner – including Checkatrade’s Franchisee of the Year 2015 – recently shared insights that really spoke to me about how she had to overcome prejudices and misconceptions.

She chose a complete career change in 2012. Formerly a music teacher specialising in teaching children with special needs, Wallace wanted to be her own boss.”So she learnt”the ropes as a franchisee by taking the”time to understand all the essentials for the job. Having been”supported by her”business development”manager, Wallace”managed to secure three clients in her first month, generating £25,000 in the process.

Even though that was six years ago, she still occasionally feels like an outlier in the traditionally male-dominated industry.””Turning up as a lone woman on a job can generate an interesting mix of reactions,” she said. Not only does she still get the odd raised eyebrow but also has to suffer through worse comments. “Turning up with a big heavy tool bag, you can still get the odd patronising remark: ‘Did you consider this? Did you consider that?'” Wallace revealed.

How are these preconceptions handled? Rather than through any kind of conflict or awkwardness, Wallace simply presents her skills and knowledge: “I normally give them some piece of technical information in the first five minutes that they haven’t thought of.”

Failing that, there’s always the more industrial option: “Or I just give them a really heavy tool bag to carry from my van – that can help to keep people a bit quieter.”

Still, she wouldn’t change her life as a franchisee for the world. “I like being out and about and working with people,” Wallace said.” “I like having succinct projects to work on. I think underneath everything I like being a homemaker. I like to decorate my own home and I love all the before and after pictures for other people’s DIY projects. “I’ve always loved all that and I like helping other people find what’s right for them. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of that.”

It’s imperative women share their success stories in business and explain how they’ve overcome obstacles to become successful businesswomen. Wallace’s story is just one of many where there’s something to shout about, so let’s keep making noise and empowering women in business.

Pip Wilkins
Pip Wilkins