5 Ways to Inspire Female Entrepreneurs of the Next Generation and Navigate the Child Bearing Challenge

I am sure most of you have seen bandied around this dramatic graph from a survey published in the Economist by Landais and Sorgard which shows the dramatic difference between between men’s earnings versus women’s before and after childbirth. It shows a violent drop in women’s earnings by 20 points compared to men with an almost non-existent rate of recovery.


The current impressive campaigns for women’s rights have the barrier of child bearing at the heart of the topic. Last week I had the good fortune to speak to 180 year 10 students at Chelsea Academy about women in work in the build-up to International Women’s Day on 8 March.

It gave me a chance to look back at my own career and think about what I regret as well as looking at things that have worked well for me. I think these thoughts are particularly relevant for future entrepreneurs as it is a route to creating flexibility while ambitiously striving for success.

So forgive the repetition of calls to action but I have briefly summarized below 5 conclusions that I have come to which I would want to pass on to the female entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

5 Ways to Inspire Female Entrepreneurs of the Next Generation and Navigate the Child Bearing Challenge

  1. Find your role models: inspire young women to discover the female role models they most admire and learn all about them. I wish that I had found female role models I admire earlier on in my career. Recently I have taken huge inspiration, creative thoughts and focus from exceptional women that I have read about and learned from. Some examples that topped my list include:
    1. Marcia Kilgore (started her career with $ in her pocket then went on to found and build 3 extremely successful business – Bliss, Soap & Glory and FitFlop).
    2. Steve Shirley, an all time great who started a global tech company in the 60s, she had to sign all approaches with ‘Steve’ (rather than Stephanie) to persuade people to meet her. In her later years she has become a leading supporter of Autism charities
    3. Ednan Adan Ismail an exceptional entrepreneur from Somaliland who bashed down glass ceilings and sold her home to finance the build of a world class hospital which she still runs today in her 80s.
    4. Carolyn McCall who went from being CEO of The Guardian and struggled to becoming one of the leading CEOs in the UK at Easyjet, a perfect example who learned from failure and built on it with enormous success.

2. Pursue your passion: help girls discover what they love to do and why to see if that can relate to a potential career. The more your  daily job or business can become a pleasure the harder you work and the more you will succeed. My own experience running Muddy Puddles is driven along by how much I love building an ethos led brand which ties to my passion to inspire children to leap outdoors.

5 Ways to Inspire Female Entrepreneurs of the Next Generation and Navigate the Child Bearing Challenge

3. Do your research: one of the mistakes I have made in the past is failure to check that the idea I have has a customer and unique space in the marketplace. Teaching skills in how to research, analyse and draw conclusions is a key part of education and where school can show how these skills are applicable to the professional choices pupils make it will stand them in such good stead for the future.

4. Work as hard as you can: the old adage that success comes from 99% sweat and 1% genius is one I believe in strongly. Every failure I have faced where I have leaned in harder, worked more and increased my focus has proved to me repeatedly that this is how you achieve success. For me personally it has become a learned behavior from both my parents who always worked exceptionally and my school which really believed in the value of work as the route to success. I am still today motivated by my friends from school and the impressive careers they have forged.

5. Start early: replace work experience with a first business: I think that there is know better way to learn than to start your own business while you are in school. I believe that this real life experience of all the steps and processes involved would be far more powerful than work experience. This is something I am doing with my daughter who is 10 and it as an exciting shared project. Read below on the 7 simple steps we are taking to launch a little business only using pocket money or money she has earned in exchange for chores!

5 Ways to Inspire Female Entrepreneurs of the Next Generation and Navigate the Child Bearing Challenge

I would love hear any more advice or thoughts on this if you wanted to share.