Empowering future female leaders | The role of mentorship and education

By Alison Cork MBE

In a world where ambition knows no gender, young women are expressing their entrepreneurial aspirations louder than ever. However, despite their ambitions of becoming business owners and leaders, many still grapple with a perceived disadvantage because of their gender.

Recent research conducted by the National Women’s Enterprise Week (NWEW) in collaboration with Sapio Research sheds light on the hurdles young women think they will face on their journey to leadership roles and entrepreneurship.

Challenges persist for future female entrepreneurs

The study reveals a stark contrast: while a significant majority of young women (aged 14-18) express a desire to start their own businesses (76%) and envision themselves in leadership positions (64%), they are also ten times more likely than boys to believe that being female could hinder their path to becoming a boss. This inherent contradiction highlights a critical issue in our society’s perception of gender roles and underscores the need for proactive measures to empower and support aspiring female leaders.

One of the primary challenges identified is the disparity in perceived barriers between boys and girls. While nearly 7 in 10 young people would prefer entrepreneurship over traditional employment, girls are more hesitant due to concerns that owning their own business will be stressful (51%) or that they are not confident enough (40%) in comparison to boys (40%; 34% respectively). Addressing these concerns requires a concerted effort to instil confidence and resilience in girls and teenagers, starting from an early age.

Education & encouragement to drive future entrepreneurship

Education emerges as a pivotal factor in shaping the entrepreneurial mindset of young girls. The research indicates that parental encouragement plays a significant role in fostering entrepreneurial ambitions, surpassing the influence of teachers. This highlights the importance of integrating entrepreneurship education into school curriculums and providing girls with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the future business world confidently. By equipping them with entrepreneurial acumen and fostering a supportive environment, we can empower girls to overcome barriers and pursue their ambitions fearlessly.

Female role models can mentor the next generation of leaders 

The British Psychological Study research shows women who have a female mentor, particularly in underrepresented fields such as STEM, feel more confident and motivated and more likely to participate in an internship or continue postgraduate study, setting them on a trajectory to leadership success. Initiatives like the NWEW Women’s Launch Lab incubator program play a crucial role in making sure women can serve as exemplary role models. By equipping them with mentorship and guidance, to not only support female entrepreneurialism today but also empower women to inspire the next generation of female business owners and leaders.

As we strive towards a more inclusive and equitable society, it is imperative to empower female leaders and entrepreneurs. By addressing the challenges highlighted in this research through education, mentorship, and representation, we can create a future where every woman, no matter their age, feels empowered to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations, regardless of gender stereotypes or societal barriers. Let us seize this opportunity to nurture and support the female leaders of tomorrow, driving positive change and innovation in our communities and beyond.

Apply here now for the National Women’s Enterprise Week Incubator Programme (17th – 21st June 2024). Applications close on 30th April 2024 at midnight.

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