Pip Wilkins, CEO of the British Franchise Association, explains why networking with like-minded women is essential and how inspired she’s been by women in the industry
We recently held our bfa Empowering Women in Business convention at the Nottingham Belfry. In its sixth year, this is the first time we’ve widened the theme to include all businesswomen and at the bfa we firmly believe the event is an essential programme on our calendar.
Its aim is for women to network with one another, learn from each other and oneself, be inspired and take home insightful knowledge and get the room thinking.
This year’s themes focused around leadership (rise to power, leadership styles, mentors, awards), culture (overcoming obstacles, breaking down walls and rebuilding, women supporting women) and well-being (balancing responsibilities, struggles, needs and teamwork).
The key speakers drove home particularly strong messages throughout and, once more, the event was received very positively. It’s always essential for women to work together to inspire best practice, learning from and supporting one another.
With only eight per cent of the workforce holding influential non-executive roles being women, according to a recent report by Cranfield School of Management, there’s still a long way to go. This is just a two per cent rise over the previous decade and frankly not enough. That said, over the years working in franchising I have noticed a change.
I have been with the bfa nearly 20 years and in that time the profile of franchisees in particular has broadened. Before, it was almost exclusively men of a certain age. Now, franchisees are getting younger, many more women are getting into franchising and it’s also more diverse culturally, too.
The profile of a franchisee is now a wide spectrum and this shared experience can only be a positive one for the industry. Everybody is welcome in franchising and that is how the industry will flourish and is creating waves.
As the results from the bfa NatWest survey showed, women are getting more involved in the sector and more are becoming franchisees - a trend we hope continues.
We ran an editorial campaign at the bfa around Empowering Women in Business for the first time ever, interviewing many of our franchisees and franchisors over the past few months and finding out how and why they got into the industry and the challenges they faced in doing so.
One of the prevailing issues that previously stopped these inspiring women getting into franchising was self doubt. This could be around making major financial decisions, concerns about experience and skills or just being fearful of taking the plunge.
However, as was the case with all the people who explained this was a major concern, they all believe that self doubt will hold you back. You should have faith in yourself and should you make any mistakes, learn from them.
It was fantastic seeing the team at the bfa speak with so many women from different backgrounds in franchising, including interviewing women in predominately maleoriented trades and those who made a career change to live their dreams and, in many instances, adjusted work and life balance to create the optimal balance.
It’s natural and normal to have reservations about oneself, but it’s also imperative to have faith in yourself. This is the key to empowering and enabling yourself.