But we can do something about it. Amid all the turbulence, the crisis has also triggered a reset of priorities and a period of soul-searching that few other circumstances can provide.
Many women, who previously would have continued in their careers are now more open to other options and not simply because of a lack of jobs.
We have to support their ambitions and their futures and the ambitions and futures of women entrepreneurs who are already in business.
I am not saying we should do this because women entrepreneurs should be seen as victims or needy, more so because we too can take stock of reset at this time of change.
As an entrepreneur myself, I know women face exactly the same challenges as male business owners in terms of starting and growing our business, though there are key differences and challenges such as childcare, healthcare and different attitudes to risk.
In 2019, the Alison Rose Review for Women Entrepreneurs (which I contributed to) looked into the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in Britain and found that if women were able to start businesses at the same rate as men, there would be at least one million more female-led companies. Just think of that: one million more female-led businesses.
We are all most comfortable with people who are similar to us; in venture capital, this means that men often choose to invest in other men like them.
In March, I will launch Charter 21, a manifesto which will draw together businesses, local and national government, banks, successful female entrepreneurs and enterprise groups to help women entrepreneurs in the communities where they live.
Mentoring will be key. We know knowledge is power and building knowledge where we can means we de-risk a situation and we don’t go into something with our eyes closed. Women do mentoring really well. They give back to others.
Of course this is a grand plan but we will get nowhere if we don’t challenge ourselves or others.
There will be issues around financial literacy which will present challenges and under-represented groups will lack space, infrastructure and money.
Working from home might still be a problem in March as will juggling childcare. In rural communities, access to the internet is a particular problem. But we can provide options
I’m not saying that all women will need help but particularly at pre start-up and start-up stage, according to the Rose Review, women are less confident than their male counterparts and they typically have less capital to invest.
The Rose Review also found that women are less likely than men to know other entrepreneurs or to have access to sponsors, mentors or professional support networks.
One of the key differences that gets talked about is that people say women are more cautious when it comes to money and are scared about going into debt. Women generally do undercapitalise their business. But actually when you look back at previous economic recessions, if you accept that premise, probably being cautious is a good thing.
My strategy for living is to ‘try to be the change you want to see in the world’. That implies building new structures and being attuned to new requirements. Our collective lockdown gives us all a chance to reflect, prioritise, study, explore, experiment, innovate, communicate and still collaborate via new technology and platforms.
The time has come. In my next post, I will reveal how you can help launch Charter 21 where you are.