How the franchising sphere is leading the way to encourage women to become their own bosses.
Women are currently joining the franchise industry in greater numbers than ever – according to the International Franchise Association, it’s a global trend. In fact, there is research to suggest that female franchise ownership in the U.S. has increased by more than 80 per cent since 2010, while the British Franchise Association has reported a 20 per cent jump in the number of female franchisees since 2015, with 37 per cent of all new franchisees in the last three years being women.
Even without knowing the stats, it really feels like there are simply more franchise opportunities today with a broader appeal than at any point in history. This should make it easier for anyone to join the industry, but when we see so many more business models offering flexibility of working hours, it goes a long way to helping women break out of the unfair, but common norm of being the ‘second’ earner in a household, mainly due to being the ‘primary’ carer – whether that be of children or elderly family members.
Of course, if we happily embrace the fact that women make up a majority of franchisees across the children’s activity and tuition sectors, then we can’t be obtuse when the same is still true of men in the more manually-focused man in a van sector. There’s nothing to say that this status quo can’t or won’t equilibrate at some point, but I think most other sectors seem pretty close to having equality of entry. That’s simply not the case in the wider business world, though.
Believe it or not, it’s been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act came into being in the U.K. Basically, from that moment on, employers were legally prevented from paying a woman less than a man for the same job. So why does the gender pay gap still exist? With the exception of this year (due to COVID-19) the government has been requiring British companies employing more than 250 people to actually publish their gender pay gap information. Yet, despite campaigns by women’s rights groups promoting the need to close the gap, the results published in 2019 showed that the gap had actually increased – in fact almost 80 per cent of the U.K.’s largest companies were still reporting a gap.
Anyway, I’m not normally one to drift into political rants, but it does beg the question: might one of the reasons women are seeking out and embracing the chance to become a franchisee be the complete lack of glass ceiling?
A lack of glass ceiling
A cursory glance at the last 10 or so Franchisor and Franchisee of the Year awards finalist lists suggests that in our industry at least, no-one seems to be questioning the crucial role women play in helping to build and grow businesses and strengthen the economy – it seems to be a given. Attending events such as EWIF (Encouraging Women Into Franchising) and EWIB (Empowering Women In Business), you can’t help but notice that the camaraderie and mutual encouragement that might have historically been dismissed as ‘a bit girly’ in some quarters, is built upon a network of incredibly skilled and successful women. Might it be that women are actually inherently suited to franchising, and with no-one standing to benefit from holding them back, they flourish?
There are plenty of research papers that suggest women are naturally excellent in several key skill areas required in the franchise environment: communication, organization, multi-tasking and emotional intelligence. Women are also thought to be more open to sharing best practices and helping others ‘in the team’ which of course lends itself perfectly to being part of a franchise network. I’m sure we’ve all heard with monotonous regularity about the ‘parent and child’ nature of the franchisor-franchisee relationship? Well, perhaps women make particularly great franchisors thanks to being more naturally disposed to patience and compassion and winning as a team, or dare I say, family?
In our industry at least, no-one seems to be questioning the crucial role women play in helping to build and grow businesses and strengthen the economy – it seems to be a given”
Denise Hutton-Gosney, managing director and founder of Razzamataz Theatre Schools, says: “As a performing arts franchise, we have always had a high proportion of women in our network. What we are now increasingly finding is that there is no set route from where these women come from.
“On one side we have incredibly successful, multi-territory-owning young women franchisees who joined us straight out of college and on the other, we have women who have already had successful careers and are choosing us because of the flexibility and job satisfaction that we provide. It has always been our ethos that family and running a Razzamataz franchise go hand in hand and that is the environment that we create. For many women with young children or for those who are carers or who have a busy house to run, this flexibility and understanding gives them the confidence to step out of their comfort zone and run a business, many for the first time.”
International franchisor insight
I’ve worked in franchising for 20 years now. I opened a refillable ink cartridge shop in Edinburgh not long after university – not a particularly sexy business I’ll grant you, but a good business. Customers came in and asked if it was a franchise so often that I decided I really ought to find out what a franchise was.
Fast forward a few years of seriously hard work, taking advice, ignoring advice (and one or two avoidable mistakes) and I had 70 franchisees in six countries from the Middle East to the Caribbean.
Suzie McCafferty is the CEO of Platinum Wave Franchising, an international, independent, bfa-accredited franchise consultancy firm, established in 2010.
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