Last week I attended a lively discussion on ‘Cracking the Diversity Challenge‘. There was one key point that really grabbed my attention. Despite the fact more women than men now graduate from university in the UK and enter corporate roles, when it comes to the executive levels the percentages of women fall to single figures. What’s happening? It turns out, a good proportion of these women are leaving their corporate careers to set up their own businesses, and the numbers doing so are on the increase.
Good for them! However, is running your own business for everyone? To do so requires a great deal of drive, determination and courage, and these are the same raw skills that are used to create and grow careers in the corporate world. Is there anything behind the trend, of these experienced corporate women, to move into self-employment?
Between 2008 and 2011 women accounted for an unprecedented 80% of the new self-employed (1). In a 2009 study (2), women were nearly 5 times more likely to mention family reasons for becoming self-employed than men. This is a pattern I have seen with my coaching and cognitive hypnotherapy clients, through conversations with friends, and with other women I have met at networking or business events: many women leave corporate life to work for themselves in the first 5 years after having their first child. For many, there were feelings of anxiety around being able to continue in their corporate role during a time of such great change in their lives. A child starting infant school seems to be a common tipping point.
From my own personal experience, returning to work after my first child and in the years that followed in my corporate life, my confidence appeared to become more and more elusive; the voice in my head of self-doubt and self-judgement gradually getting louder and louder. A year after my first child was born, I left a great career and took a 2-year contracting job until I had my second child. 6 months on from that and I was back in full-time employment, but I still felt I was pushing myself though an invisible wall at times. Mostly I powered through it, pushing harder and harder the less effective or appreciated I felt. With hindsight I was letting opportunities fall by the wayside, rather than grabbing them with my usual vigour, I felt less effective and less appreciated. For years I persevered, until one day I had had enough and left my well-paid, but seemingly fulfilling job and setup my own business. Don’t get me wrong, I love my new work, but the reality is, running my own business is much tougher!!
I’m not saying it’s right or wrong to change careers when working in corporate life seems to become impossible or joyless. What I now know is, it’s better to make those decisions when you have a clear mind. With thoughts of self-doubt, fears of not being capable, worries and other anxieties clouding your mind, I’m seeing this as the worst place from which to make a big decision. Think about a circumstance or situation in which you habitually or suddenly ‘feel pressure’. In that state of mind, if you react, I’m guessing that 9 times out of 10 it won’t be the most productive response you’ve made all day!
I strongly believe there are times in a woman's life (and a man’s) when more support and guidance would be beneficial to help them thrive and flourish within their existing organisation, which may be the most desirable outcome for them and the business. It’s definitely worth exploring before jumping ship!
As a coach, I work with my clients to help them gain a deeper understanding of how the mind works, and of how their amazing human operating system creates their experience of the world. As they realise this more deeply there comes a different quality of mind: less noise and more clarity in their thinking; more creativity; and innate well-being. It is a far more effective and productive place to work from, to communicate from, and from which to make better decisions.
In your business, are you struggling to retain women? Do the diversity or cost implications of losing valuable members of staff in the future concern you? I would love to have a discussion with you to explore the possibilities to turn this around.
If you personally are suffering from your over-thinking; if the chatter in your head has become too loud or constant; if clarity is evading you; if the pressure of work or life is getting to you; where it seems your only option is to quit, then I would love to talk with you. We will explore how you can thrive and flourish in your life now.
(1) Labour Force Survey, Office of National Statistics 2013
(2) ONS Regional Trends, Women in Business 2009