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  • Publish Date: Posted about 1 month ago
  • Author:by Career Moves

What It Means to Be a Women-Owned Business in 2022

​More women are starting businesses in the UK than ever before. According to the Allison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, more than 140,000 all-female-founded businesses were created last year — a figure that has grown by a third every year since 2019.​But female entrepreneurs still face additional challenges compared to their male counterparts. The 2022 Gender Index report found that, while women lead around 17% of active UK companies, these companies attract just 12% of the investment in UK businesses. ​Women-led businesses also generate a lower turnover than those led by men or mixed leadership teams, and female entrepreneurs were 62% less likely to have their business recover from COVID. ​To find out more about what it means to be a female entrepreneur in 2022, we caught up with Caroline Foote, Career Moves’ founder and CEO, who has been leading the company since 1987. ​The beginning ​Caroline started Career Moves Group with two co-founders, just a few years out of university in the late 1980s. ​‘It was sort of the zeitgeist,’ she says, ‘everyone was empowered to be amazing and do their own thing.’​That said, when Caroline and her co-founders took their business plan to a bank in a bid to secure funding, they were turned down.“We had the exact same business plan and the same accountant as a male friend of ours. His request for a loan was granted while we were turned away”​Undeterred, the women decided to get creative. Each of them applied for personal loans which were then pooled. With those loans, Caroline and her two co-founders — both also women — started a business that is still going strong more than 30 years on.​​A company going from strength to strength​Over the years, Career Moves has been restructured to reflect the changing landscape and, in 2009, Caroline became the sole director. At the time, she had a clear plan on how to move forward.‘It was very much about taking the learnings from the earlier organisation and using them to create an even better business,’ she says. ​Today, one of Career Moves’ key focuses is looking after its people: Caroline is proud to support her employees through various health and wellness initiatives, and benefits like private health insurance and early-finish Fridays once a month. ​Employees are also well-rewarded for their work: ‘20% of the profit goes straight into being in a profit share scheme, so people really get thanked for their hard work’, Caroline explains. ​Career Moves has repeatedly been named as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces in the small businesses category. An accolade that is a particular source of pride for Caroline. ​​​Women-Owned Business certification​Career Moves is certified by WEConnect as a Women-Owned business — a certification that was not easy to achieve. ​‘It was quite a rigorous process to go through,’ Caroline says, ‘They looked at our accounts, they looked at our development. They wanted an org chart. They wanted to see that we were a well-run business. And we came through that with flying colours, which has been amazing.’​As a female leader, Caroline felt that it was important to highlight this fact to both clients and suppliers. ​‘It's something that we haven't shouted about before, but supplier diversity programs are becoming more and more prevalent. So, it's really important to shout about it because it's still not very common.’​Overcoming challenges​Leading a female-owned business has not always been easy for Caroline, who says she has faced challenges over her career that male owners do not necessarily come up against. She describes the prejudice she faced when trying to get funding as an all-female-owned business back in the 1980s. ​‘We were asked, “well, aren’t you going to start a family?”’, she says, ‘Things that you wouldn’t dream of saying these days. It was a very different time and set of circumstances.’​​Balancing responsibilities: a female-only problem? ​Even today, female leaders often find it challenging to balance their work with their other responsibilities — something that does not seem to affect their male counterparts in the same way. ​‘I think the challenges are when you have conflicting priorities, whether it's a family or you’re a carer, or whatever they may be,’ Caroline says. ​‘It's a challenge to juggle everything. And I think those responsibilities, more often than not, do tend to fall on women.’​Sadly, this is true: a McKinsey study commissioned by the Rose Review in October 2021 found that female entrepreneurs had twice the caregiving responsibilities as their male counterparts.  And of course, this came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the OECD, mothers were almost three times as likely as fathers to say that they took on most or all the extra responsibilities related to school or childcare facility closures. ​​COVID-19 and the female-led approach​Career Moves has managed to come through the pandemic unscathed, celebrating an excellent financial year last year — but this was not a given from the start. ​‘Our new financial year started as COVID lockdown happened,’ Caroline explains. ‘We had quite an ambitious business plan. And then after Q2, everything that I'd done before, everything I thought of, and everything that had worked historically, didn't work. Because people weren't recruiting. People were being made redundant and put on furlough. At that point in time, I was thinking, “can I do this?”’​Female entrepreneurs were 62% less likely to have their businesses recover from COVID. Caroline wonders if there’s something about traditional ‘female’ leadership that could have contributed to this. ​‘I don't want to generalise or stereotype, but for me, maybe I was slightly slower to react. I didn't furlough people straight away. I delayed the furlough thing. For the first six months, I was very hopeful, and believed that we could do this as an entity.’But all in all, Caroline is incredibly proud of how well they weathered the storm:​“When you see how everyone has pulled together, coming through COVID and then this last financial year… you can't believe it. The work that the people that I work with do. They're just phenomenal individuals and have just done incredibly well.”​​Advice for future female entrepreneurs​Caroline’s advice for young women with aspirations to run a company? Go for it — but make sure you know what you are doing. ​‘The key thing is to do your research, make sure that there's a gap in the market for what you are offering. Get good support, get good advice, join a network in your sector,’ she says. ​Because, according to Caroline, the results are worth the risk: ​“There's a real sense of achievement through collaboration. We’ve hit some incredible financial milestones, and not only do I work with the most amazing people, but we also work with the most amazing organisations… and we do great work!”​

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More women are starting businesses in the UK than ever before. According to the Allison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, more than 140,000 all-female-founded businesses were created last year — a figure that has grown by a third every year since 2019.

But female entrepreneurs still face additional challenges compared to their male counterparts. The 2022 Gender Index report found that, while women lead around 17% of active UK companies, these companies attract just 12% of the investment in UK businesses. Women-led businesses also generate a lower turnover than those led by men or mixed leadership teams, and female entrepreneurs were 62% less likely to have their business recover from COVID. 

To find out more about what it means to be a female entrepreneur in 2022, we caught up with Caroline Foote, Career Moves’ founder and CEO, who has been leading the company since 1987. 

The beginning 

Caroline started Career Moves Group with two co-founders, just a few years out of university in the late 1980s. 

‘It was sort of the zeitgeist,’ she says, ‘everyone was empowered to be amazing and do their own thing.’

That said, when Caroline and her co-founders took their business plan to a bank in a bid to secure funding, they were turned down.

“We had the exact same business plan and the same accountant as a male friend of ours. His request for a loan was granted while we were turned away”

Undeterred, the women decided to get creative. Each of them applied for personal loans which were then pooled. With those loans, Caroline and her two co-founders — both also women — started a business that is still going strong more than 30 years on.

A company going from strength to strength

Over the years, Career Moves has been restructured to reflect the changing landscape and, in 2009, Caroline became the sole director. At the time, she had a clear plan on how to move forward.

‘It was very much about taking the learnings from the earlier organisation and using them to create an even better business,’ she says. 

Today, one of Career Moves’ key focuses is looking after its people: Caroline is proud to support her employees through various health and wellness initiatives, and benefits like private health insurance and early-finish Fridays once a month. 

Employees are also well-rewarded for their work: ‘20% of the profit goes straight into being in a profit share scheme, so people really get thanked for their hard work’, Caroline explains. 

Career Moves has repeatedly been named as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces in the small businesses category. An accolade that is a particular source of pride for Caroline. 

Women-Owned Business certification

Career Moves is certified by WEConnect as a Women-Owned business — a certification that was not easy to achieve. 

‘It was quite a rigorous process to go through,’ Caroline says, ‘They looked at our accounts, they looked at our development. They wanted an org chart. They wanted to see that we were a well-run business. And we came through that with flying colours, which has been amazing.’

As a female leader, Caroline felt that it was important to highlight this fact to both clients and suppliers. 

‘It's something that we haven't shouted about before, but supplier diversity programs are becoming more and more prevalent. So, it's really important to shout about it because it's still not very common.’

Overcoming challenges

Leading a female-owned business has not always been easy for Caroline, who says she has faced challenges over her career that male owners do not necessarily come up against. She describes the prejudice she faced when trying to get funding as an all-female-owned business back in the 1980s. 

‘We were asked, “well, aren’t you going to start a family?”’, she says, ‘Things that you wouldn’t dream of saying these days. It was a very different time and set of circumstances.’

Balancing responsibilities: a female-only problem? 

Even today, female leaders often find it challenging to balance their work with their other responsibilities — something that does not seem to affect their male counterparts in the same way. 

‘I think the challenges are when you have conflicting priorities, whether it's a family or you’re a carer, or whatever they may be,’ Caroline says. 

‘It's a challenge to juggle everything. And I think those responsibilities, more often than not, do tend to fall on women.’

Sadly, this is true: a McKinsey study commissioned by the Rose Review in October 2021 found that female entrepreneurs had twice the caregiving responsibilities as their male counterparts.  And of course, this came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the OECD, mothers were almost three times as likely as fathers to say that they took on most or all the extra responsibilities related to school or childcare facility closures. 

COVID-19 and the female-led approach

Career Moves has managed to come through the pandemic unscathed, celebrating an excellent financial year last year — but this was not a given from the start. 

‘Our new financial year started as COVID lockdown happened,’ Caroline explains. ‘We had quite an ambitious business plan. And then after Q2, everything that I'd done before, everything I thought of, and everything that had worked historically, didn't work. Because people weren't recruiting. People were being made redundant and put on furlough. At that point in time, I was thinking, “can I do this?”’

Female entrepreneurs were 62% less likely to have their businesses recover from COVID. Caroline wonders if there’s something about traditional ‘female’ leadership that could have contributed to this. 

‘I don't want to generalise or stereotype, but for me, maybe I was slightly slower to react. I didn't furlough people straight away. I delayed the furlough thing. For the first six months, I was very hopeful, and believed that we could do this as an entity.’

But all in all, Caroline is incredibly proud of how well they weathered the storm:

“When you see how everyone has pulled together, coming through COVID and then this last financial year… you can't believe it. The work that the people that I work with do. They're just phenomenal individuals and have just done incredibly well.”

Advice for future female entrepreneurs

Caroline’s advice for young women with aspirations to run a company? Go for it — but make sure you know what you are doing. 

‘The key thing is to do your research, make sure that there's a gap in the market for what you are offering. Get good support, get good advice, join a network in your sector,’ she says. 

Because, according to Caroline, the results are worth the risk: 

“There's a real sense of achievement through collaboration. We’ve hit some incredible financial milestones, and not only do I work with the most amazing people, but we also work with the most amazing organisations… and we do great work!”