International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge

5 Mar 2021

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #ChooseToChallenge, which focuses on the need to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. This year’s campaign also seeks to celebrate women's achievements, in order to help create a more inclusive world.

IWD 2021 #ChoosetoChallenge

Here at Funding Options, we recently launched our Women in Fintech series to showcase and champion different women across our business and their various journeys and experiences in their careers to date. 

So far, we’ve shared the stories of our resident Business Finance Partner Brittany Weake, our Origination and Development Team Lead, India McWalters , our Head of Commercial and Sales in the Netherlands Saskia van Kalsbeek, our Information Technology Technician Nourhan Elshenawi and our our Salesforce Administrator Naomi Kander. We will continue to add the experiences of more Funding Options women throughout the year. 

Our advice to other women

Through our collective and varied experiences, we wanted to mark International Women’s Day by sharing the pieces of advice we wish we could tell our younger selves or pass onto other women. To hear our advice and nuggets of wisdom, watch our video here.

Industry commitment to supporting female-led businesses 

As well as our own commitment to create change within the finance and tech industries, other brands and institutions are making pledges and signing up to charters to show their committed support to female-run businesses of today and of the future.

Recent research commissioned by NatWest in conjunction with YouGov showed that 1 in 10 female entrepreneurs plan to start a business in 2021, yet 55% of female business leaders would not recommend starting a business in their sector in 2021. 

Statistics such as these have meant that lenders are making commitments to challenge gender inequality and are pledging ways to support female business owners. Back in January, Natwest announced an additional £1 billion in funding to help support female-led businesses in the UK recover from the pandemic. 

NatWest also revealed that their share of lending to female founders has been rising from 9.5% to 14% of their total lending. This increase in additional funding that they have committed to, will be important in representing new lending into the UK economy and in closing the gap between female and male entrepreneurs.

Similarly, Barclays have committed to backing female-led businesses through COVID-19 and beyond. Back in 2019, Barclays signed the Treasury’s Investing in Women Code as a sign of their commitment to improving the access to tools, resources and finance for female entrepreneurs. 

However, the recent Female Founders Forum report, a project created by The Entrepreneurs Network and Barclays highlights how female-led, equity-backed businesses have been disproportionately impacted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings highlight how important it is to ensure female-led businesses are more resilient for future crises. 

As part of their commitment to the Investing in Women code, Barclays main 3 aims are to help 100,000 women across the UK to start up and run businesses, to connect female-led businesses with the finance and support they need to succeed and to provide the relevant skills for this generation and the next to help them into business. 

This same commitment to invest in the professional development of women and their businesses is also happening in the tech space. Google’s 12 week mentorship program,  Immersion: Women Founders, is for high potential women-led startups from across Europe. The program aims to address the challenges for women founders in the startup ecosystem, with the aim to close the gender gap, ensuring more equal access to funding, and leveraging strong professional networks. 

Google themselves have increased their female tech hires from 20.8% to 24.5% showing their focus on hiring more women within the tech sector is having an impact.

Accenture’s Women in Tech programme seeks to reset the tech culture, in order to attract and retain women in tech. Their own research shows that an inclusive culture is key to retaining women in tech roles and as a result they have created actionable steps to reset tech culture within their business. These include things like providing women-specific support such as mentors, sponsors and employee resource networks and encouraging inclusive networking events where everyone can join.

Learn more about our commitment to achieving gender equality in our organisation and why we signed the Women in Finance Charter here

Find out more

Zoe Cornish

Chief People & Operations Officer

Zoe Cornish is the Chief People & Operating Officer at Funding Options. Zoe has an extensive background in human resources and in developing and implementing people strategies within companies, covering employee engagement, performance management, organisational culture, coaching, as well as policies and practice. Prior to Funding Options, Zoe was the COO at Emerald group (acquired by Mind Tools).

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