Girls 10x more likely to doubt leadership potential

Ahead of International Women's Day (IWD), new research has uncovered a significant gap in the aspirations and perceived barriers between genders, with girls ten times more likely than boys to feel that their gender would disadvantage them in achieving leadership roles.

Despite this, a strong majority of 76% expressed a desire to start their own business, and 64% envisioned themselves in leadership positions in the future.

The study, conducted by the National Women’s Enterprise Week (NWEW) in collaboration with Sapio Research, involved 500 teenagers aged 14 to 18. It revealed that, although girls are ambitious about their entrepreneurial futures, they also see more obstacles in their path compared to boys.

The findings highlight ongoing challenges for future female entrepreneurs. While nearly seven in 10 young people prefer entrepreneurship over employment, girls are more apprehensive about the stresses and confidence required for leadership roles. Concerns about balancing family life and business, along with the need for childcare, were notably more prevalent among girls.

The research underscores the importance of education and role models in fostering entrepreneurship. Parents were found to be more encouraging than teachers in this regard, pointing to a need for more entrepreneurial education and empowerment in schools.

In alignment with these findings, Akshata Murty is hosting a special IWD-themed ‘Lessons at 10’ event on 8th March. This ‘speed mentoring’ session aims to inspire teenage girls by connecting them with women entrepreneurs and business owners, showcasing the importance of female representation and role models in business.

Over half of the young respondents perceive that most bosses are male, a perception that could be influenced by the visibility of role models. Knowing a business owner personally increases the likelihood of young people aspiring to entrepreneurship or leadership roles.

Alison Cork MBE, Founder of National Women’s Enterprise Week and mentor for Lessons at 10, said: “I’m inspired by the entrepreneurial drive of young people that our research shows. However, it also finds that this next generation of female business owners and bosses perceive there still to be barriers standing in their way. Representation is key and the actions female leaders take now will help to alleviate the challenges for the next generation that women in business still face. This is why I’m hugely excited to be involved with Akshata Murty’s initiative, Lessons at 10, to provide important mentorship and inspiration for young women to achieve their ambitions.”

Akshata Murty commented: “It’s wonderful to see research highlighting the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of young people in the UK. However, there is clearly work to be done to support young women, who perceive the challenges to be greater for them than their male friends and counterparts.

“There are incredible female entrepreneurs and business leaders in this country. I’m very pleased that Lessons at 10 will provide an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to meet and learn from such a wide range of role models. I am in no doubt that these impressive women, these pioneers, will break down barriers and inspire the next generation.”

In further support of female entrepreneurs, the NWEW has opened applications for its incubator programme, the Women’s Launch Lab (WLL), as part of National Women’s Enterprise Week taking place from 17-21st June 2024. Sponsored by Dorsett Hospitality International, the program provides female founders with resources, mentorship, and the opportunity to pitch to investors. Akshata Murty, alongside Winnie Chiu JP of Dorsett Hospitality International, will lead the judging panel to award two cash prizes to promising startup and scaleup businesses. Applications for the programme, offering ten free spaces across different regions in the UK, are open until 30th April 2024.