Why did I have dinner with a room full of male entrepreneurs during International Women’s Day week?
Last week I attended a dinner for business founders and owners, during the week of International Women’s Day. As usual, I was the only woman at a large table of white men in blue shirts. It’s always white men in blue shirts — an occasional white shirt is the extent to the diversity.
It was an exceptionally interesting and enjoyable evening at a lovely location with great inspiring people, but I’ve been to so many of these dinners since starting Brilliant Noise four years ago — and the number of women leaders around the table is not increasing at all. As it appears there’s been little change to the number of women starting businesses in the marketing and creative sector, I worry it’s even less in other sectors.
The ultimate experience was attending a dinner with 26 others, all men, when I was heavily pregnant. The topic was digital transformation and the focus of the conversation was technology. I brazenly leant in and made a point about the cultural side of digital transformation — the need for behavioural change. 52 eyes turned to look at me as though I was a lazy pregnant waitress having a sit down.
In 33 years, when my daughter is in her mid thirties, I’d love the places at the table and their pay to be gender balanced. In the next five years it would be wonderful to see a substantial rise in female attendance at entrepreneurial events and as conference speakers — organisers should always aim for gender parity.
It’s scary and difficult to start a business. I own the business equally with two other great people and we didn’t have cash to start it and we didn’t take funding. It’s been harder and more amazing than I’d imagined it could be — and having a baby too has made the experience extra hard and extra amazing. Somehow it is possible if you brave it.
So, if you possibly can, please start your own thing. Seek support and build your confidence from friends and great organisations like She Says, Ada’s List, the Female Entrepreneurs Association and the British Institute of Women Entrepreneurs. Or do get in touch if you’d like to chat — I’d be happy to help if I can.
And if you’re arranging an event please do your absolute best to balance the number of women speakers and attendees.