The ‘glass ceiling’ is a term that has been around for the past 30 years, but recent data highlighting the huge disparity between men and women’s pay over a lifetime (totaling £268,000), shows that the wall remains firmly intact. When one adds ethnicity to the equation, the situation (and prospects) is even bleaker for many women of colour. Award-winning serial business owner, Mavis Amankwah may be hailed as “one of the most influential people in PR” (PR PowerBook 2013), but the diversity specialist knows firsthand that being a black female in the workplace can often be the worst position to be in.
A report by the Runnymede Trust for the All Parliamentary Group on Race and Community found that 25% of the unemployment rate for the black and Asian population was due to “prejudice”, with women in particular reportedly facing discrimination at “every stage”. With pay inequalities and discrimination rife for some Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) – many having to ‘westernise’ their names or remove hijabs, the saying “if you can’t beat them, join them”, has never been more poignant. Today an increasing number of women are abandoning the corporate rat race and stepping onto the business ladder.
“Instead of waiting to be appointed to positions of power within organisations, more and more women are now empowering themselves by creating positions for themselves, running their own enterprises” says mother of two and serial business owner, Mavis. “Not only are women contributing to the economy through entrepreneurialism, but they are able to have more control over work/life balance.”
Today, 29% of women make up the total business owners in Britain, which indicates there is still some work to be done in terms of balancing gender-related issues in business. Official Statistics reveal that over 1.2m women started their own businesses between March and May in 2013. According to the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI), the US is the best place in the world for women to be a female entrepreneur, with the UK coming in sixth place behind Australia, Germany, France and Mexico.
Government research shows that out of almost a third of black people in England wanting to start a business only 4% actually manage to do so –the lowest figure among other ethnic groups. The issue becomes somewhat complex in terms of gender, as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has identified black women as the most entrepreneurial female group based on total economic activity. Three years ago Mavis, who founded multi-million pound agency Rich Visions Diversity Communications in 2002, launched Diva Visions, a business club exclusively for women, enabling members to network with like-minded ambitious entrepreneurs to nurture and grow their own businesses. Diva Visions currently has over 150 members and regularly hosts seminars, workshops and social functions for its members and guests. Earlier this year Mavis became a Business Ambassador (on behalf of Positive Inclusions) for Start-Up Loans UK, in an effort to support young aspiring entrepreneurs through mentorship and financial assistance. Recently, Mavis and her team announced that they had successfully assisted over 300 entrepreneurs, many of whom are young women from diverse backgrounds. To date Positive Inclusions have loaned just over £2m via the Start-Up Loans programme.
Although there is no single factor for determining the success of an entrepreneur, concerted effort needs to be made as priority in assisting women and those entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds to be given equal opportunities and support to create a fairer culture of success. Mavis believes that a good support network and access to information are among the two key components of enhancing this process. “Having a mentor or coach can be one of the most important elements in the success of any business” the PR mogul said, “It’s also important for women of colour to realise that we play a major role in contributing to the economy in the UK through our respective business endeavours and to be aware that there are organizations out there with a wealth of invaluable information to help assist them in their efforts”.
Mavis Amankwah, in conjunction with Diva Visions, will be hosting Business in Heels – an end of year luncheon celebrating women in business – on Saturday 2nd November at the Strand Palace Hotel, Central London. With specials guests including Azzra Sadiq, founder of Azra Chocolates) the event aims to highlight the entrepreneurial and feminine aspects of being strong businesswoman, succeeding in a male-dominated business world. To attend the event visit: www.businessinheels.eventbrite.co.uk/
Author: Iola C Williams
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