On International Women's Day (IWD), Solent-based business women, who have been taking part in facilitated peer networking sessions, have been explaining how beneficial support from fellow women in business has been.
Taking up the call to participate in IWD 2021 they have agreed to show their commitment to challenging inequality, and to share the reasons why 'women only' networking can be hugely important.
Since the beginning of the year, women from 20 businesses have been taking part in online sessions as part of a series of peer network meetings that we established. The networks have included sessions based on the maritime sector, and ones based on locations within the Solent region, but two of the most successful sessions have been aimed specifically at women.
We appointed the Asesoria Group to facilitate a series of interactive sessions to allow women entrepreneurs to collaboratively work through common business issues. Through Action Learning, members discuss their challenges, reflect on valuable feedback and implement practical solutions to overcome them.
Melissa Kittermaster, facilitator and CEO of Asesoria Group, said: "All participants have made great strides in moving their businesses forward to address challenges, and have gained greater focus from the input received and been enthused to make the most of any business opportunities. A wide range of topics were discussed that resulted in changes to business models to deliver additional revenue streams, the recruitment of more employees, the use of new marketing channels, delivering increased turnover and profit.
“Although the majority of the members have previously been involved in mixed networking groups, these women only sessions allowed individuals to discuss business issues, as well as female-specific challenges and to work through potential solutions to address these. Many reflected that it was the emotional support, as well as the practical business collaboration, that made these sessions unique."
In some cases, women attending these networking meetings have identified that gender relevant challenges affect many of them, including finding it difficult to 'sell' themselves.
SJ Hunt is a LEP Board Director and as a mother of five has not let stereotypes become a barrier to running businesses.
She said: "Today's world enhances productivity not hours behind a desk. Our experience has been historically that men in business are much more likely to engage with and apply to be part of these types of networking events than women.
“Anecdotally it appears to be that if domestic or family issues arise outside of the business, women are more usually expected to drop everything to deal with them. At the LEP we are working to develop applicable, tailored support for businesses run by women and to recognise some of the barriers that they have traditionally faced."
Martine Bolton from Sunshine Corporate & Personal Development and Sacha Brooks from Hampsfell Limited are both current participants from the women in business networking groups.
Martine said: "I am enjoying and benefiting from the support, challenge and accountability that the Solent LEP Peer Network is providing. Having a group of business sisters offering questions and suggestions around each other’s business-related problems and challenges is very helpful.
“At the half-way mark (out of 6 sessions), members are already beginning to experience break-throughs that are going to help them on the path to their goals. I would happily encourage anyone who believes that they would benefit from taking part in such a group, to take the plunge. The shared learning, along with the balance of giving and receiving help, is so rewarding”.
Sacha said: “When I first discovered that the UK had a significant gap in gender entrepreneurship and that only 1 in 3 business-owners was female, I was surprised and looked for tailored support in my start-up journey. Latterly, I found Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) initiative to support my woman-owned property development company and I enthusiastically applied. Since joining I found the advice, coaching, and peer support available has enabled me to access fresh ideas in a supportive environment. This value-adding activity has given me the confidence and motivation to concentrate on scaling my business to the next level.”
The LEP has recently announced that it will be establishing further peer-to-peer networking sessions in the coming year. For more information click here.
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