Women with a “why”: Small Business Britain’s International Women’s Day event

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” One of the many pearls of wisdom delivered to the room at the House of Lords on Monday afternoon.

Addressing dozens of female entrepreneurs, Rhian Parry, a serial entrepreneur herself, described the value of always learning, knowing your purpose and importantly, being your own greatest advocate – especially when the odds are stacked against you.

With just 2% of VC funding going to female-led startups, the opinion that the corporate world isn’t built for female entrepreneurs to succeed isn’t without justification. And although recent reports state that women now make up nearly 40% of the boards of Britain’s biggest 100 companies, just 8% of those companies’ CEOs are females.

Stark gender disparity in the corporate world remains, even with the knowledge that companies with female leaders outperform those dominated by men, and Monday’s f:entrepreneur event made things clear: the impetus is on females to continue advocating for change. Luckily, inspiring, determined women are plentiful in the UK.

Small Business Britain, an organisation dedicated to supporting the UK’s business founders, and its campaign arm, f:Entrepreneur which highlights inspiring female business leaders, held an afternoon of speeches and networking, connecting entrepreneurs from the community who have spent the last few years supporting one another online.

The event coincided with International Women’s Day and acknowledged this year’s “Break the Bias” tone perfectly with speeches from Michelle Ovens CBE, the founder of Small Business Britain and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, GP, labour MP for Tooting and Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, and Rhian Parry, Managing Director of Workplace Worksafe. Discussing their routes to success, what empowered them and their reason why they do what they do, the addresses created an undeniable buzz throughout the room and made it clear that women on a mission are not to be ignored.

Myself and colleague Mimi Brown were lucky enough to attend the event following our work with Small Business Britain on the Instagram mentorship campaign last year. As an agency we work with inspiring business leaders on a daily basis, and we had the opportunity to speak with a diverse range of brilliant female leaders throughout the course of the afternoon.

Breaking biases and boundaries in an undeniable way is Victoria Jenkins, founder and CEO of Unhidden Clothing, a socially responsible, adaptive fashion company founded by, and for, people with disabilities. The brand held its first showcase at London Fashion Week two weeks prior to Monday’s event and has won awards for its range of adaptive clothing engineered for people with disabilities so that clothing doesn’t act as a barrier to everyday life. Victoria is innovative, purpose-driven and using sustainably sourced materials: her passion to do things the right way was unmistakable.

Rhian Parry, one of the key speakers on the day, spoke about her multiple businesses and being the voice for people like her to break boundaries themselves. As a self professed introvert with skills aplenty – as evidenced by her serial entrepreneurship – Parry is in the process of creating a social enterprise which supports, trains and upskills women whose shyness poses as a barrier to employment. Her mantra “if no one else is going to do it, I should” shone bright in her speech, and is the clear purpose behind everything that she does.

Social purpose and positive change through the digital world is a considerable feat in an age of social media platforms, fake headlines and the saturation of news. Natalie Sherman is another founder we met: of Naturally Social, a social media agency based in Bristol working to rise above the noise to spread positivity: an inspiring female using her platform to inspire all generations, genders and businesses.

The sense of empowerment which was created by placing a community of female leaders in a room was perceptible. Fearless, innovative and driven by purpose: the UK’s female leaders, mentors and colleagues are inspirational and an example to follow. Together as a community, they are a force to be reckoned with.

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