What does Brexit mean for women in business?

Women mean business whatever post-Brexit Britain throws at them, says Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead

Female leadership in business has been steadily growing in Britain, with the so-called ‘enterprise gap’ gradually narrowing. As women continue to make inroads in closing the gender leadership divide, they still face a barrage of challenges and obstacles in the pursuit of leading successful, sustainable businesses.

One such challenge goes by the name of Brexit.

Granted, Brexit presents new challenges to the country’s entire business landscape but for women in leadership, Britain’s exit from the European Union is poised to bring fresh equality encounters, as well as unique opportunities.

Meet the women whose hard work, determination and resilience has seen them defy gender boundaries and emerge as strong, energised business leaders. These inspirational female leaders share their views on how our elusive exit from the EU is likely to impact their businesses.

Overcoming Brexit uncertainty

Brexit uncertainty is a major concern for businesses across the UK, with many admitting to being ill-prepared for our exit from the EU. Businesses of all industries and sizes are being urged to plan for maximum change and disruption.

Caroline Joynson, owner of Cheerleader PR, a PR consulting and coaching practice to UK-based SMEs and entrepreneurs, is one business leader who’s proactively planning for the change and uncertainty Brexit is likely to throw up.

Caroline is concerned about the uncertainty, believing the adjustment to whatever Brexit is agreed will impact on all businesses, including her own.

It’s a ripple effect whereby consumer confidence will be knocked, larger companies will spend less with suppliers, and suppliers will have less money to spend on promoting themselves through marketing and PR.’

However, showing typical female resilience, Caroline has a plan to counter the negative effects Brexit may have on her business.

I’m looking at expanding my coaching services to work with entrepreneurs worldwide, thus diversifying my offer and client base. Either way, the quicker Brexit is resolved, the better – we need to move on,’ said Caroline.

Toni Horsfield shares an admirable conviction to approach Brexit head on with an actionable plan. Toni runs three distinct businesses in Cheshire and says Brexit is affecting them in very different ways.

Being Head of Clean Environmentsat Moorfield Nanotechnology, which exports rapid-assembly cleanrooms globally, Toni has been working hard to repair relationships with their European market after being taken by surprise, initially, at the European reluctance to do business with British companies in the wake of the 2016 EU Referendum.

Toni is also involved in a rapidly-expanding network marketing business that encourages others to start their own business.

Here I am seeing that the unknown changes Brexit will entail, are pushing successful professionals to consider their ‘plan B’. As we offer a secure alternative to the 60-hour week, this is an area where the uncertainty of Brexit is benefiting us,’ says Toni.

Whilst there is undoubtedly a climate of spirit and innovation within the female entrepreneurialism community, we can’t escape concerns that women will bear the brunt of Brexit pitfalls.

As Erica Wolf-Murray, a leading UK business expert and founder of Lola-Media.co.uk, says:

There is little doubt that women will be adversely affected by whatever Brexit deal we end up with, as so many are employed in relatively insecure roles.’

Chiming with Toni Horsfield’s comments that people are looking at alternatives to help guide them through the uncertainties of Brexit, Erica believes women’s innovative and resilient spirit will shine as we enter an unpredictable Brexit era.

Women have an extraordinary capacity to pivot, for resilience, for new thinking – all of which will be needed over the next few months. For those who have not thought about starting their own venture, contracting markets and recession always throw up opportunities – it’s just a matter of spotting the one on the rising trend, having faith in your vision and planning, then going for it,’ says Erica.

Sharing Caroline Joynson’s strategy in reaching out to new markets to help overcome Brexit shortfalls, Erica advises women already in business to embrace new opportunities.

If you are already running your own show, keep a weather eye on where you might find additional revenues, new audiences, or buyers from a different market than the norm.’

 

Women’s rights under threat after Brexit

 

Concern that EU protections of women’s rights and workplace equality will be at risk in post-Brexit Britain cannot be ignored. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recommendsthat the government makes sure regression of women’s rights and workplace equality does not occur under UK law.

 

Natasha Mudhar, Global CEO of Sterling Media and the global campaigning consultancyWorld We Want, outlines the critical role the EU has played in improving support forfemale entrepreneurs and business leaders.

 

Many EU laws have proven beneficial to women and have helped to reduce many of the obstacles for women in work. Through expanding the right to equal pay, passing laws against sexual discrimination and ensuring the right to fair treatment,the EU has beenavital and active component in the success of many Britishfemale entrepreneurs. Departing the EU is unlikelytoseethese lawsscrapped, but there is the riskthat their effectiveness will be diminished over time,’ says Natasha

 

Using Brexit to create greater gender equality  

 

Rather than being a stumbling block for gender equality, some are viewing Brexit as an opportunity for women to level the playing field with men as, in times of such uncertainty and confusion, Britain needs women leaders more than ever.

 

One such thinker is Urchana Moudgil, COO and co-founder of the fintech-based loyalty platform Upgrade Pack. ‘A lot of businesses fear that Brexit will make hiring diverse talent even harder, but I actually think the opposite,’ she says. I think Brexit is a great opportunity for women to level the field. Brexit is triggering a sharper look at leadership and with a higher demand for talent, the best will start to dictate their own rules.’

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