It’s 2021 and even with big corporations setting quotas and goals for women sitting around boardroom tables, there’s no doubt that there is still a serious inequity between men and women in business. While anecdotally most companies are seeing an uptake in leadership roles being fulfilled by women, what is the picture in franchising and how far ahead or behind are franchisees in terms of gender equality compared to more traditional business practices?
Despite the evidence that girls outperform boys in almost every topic and at every level throughout school and university as well as women outnumbering men at entry level in most professions, there seems to be a real disparity between them moving into ongoing positions of leadership. Once women enter into the workplace they are almost immediately disadvantaged by receiving lower levels of pay – and the situation appears to be worsening, despite the now mainstream awareness of the issue.
The average gender pay gap in the UK has increased from 11.8% to 11.9% and in a survey of almost 10,500 businesses, not a single sector had men and women paid equally. Another strong example of wage inequity is that of the BBC’s publicly published salary bands report. Men consistently dominate the top 10 list of highest earners and a gender pay gap of at least 6.7% exists. While this may appear to be an improvement on the country’s stats overall, it is of course worth considering that the BBC is a publicly funded entity.
Where traditional business practices seem to fail women in terms of equal and fair pay, franchising presents an attractive business proposition for women. Much like ‘regular’ business, women certainly started off as a minority in franchising, but the rates of women becoming franchisees are rising all the time.
The ability to manage and a run a business by themselves but with the backing of a proven strong brand is appealing to those who wish not to be restricted by their gender in terms of earnings. The ongoing support that a franchising parent company offers as well as the flexibility to work and manage the business how the owner wishes to provides an unbeatable opportunity professionally.
The exact statistics on women in franchising can be difficult to ascertain, as reporting must be completed by each franchising parent company – and there’s lots of them, with no standard method or process of auditing. However, there is some data available through the banking partners and industry bodies in the sector.
It’s believed that 30% of all franchisees in the UK are now women: an increase of 8% since 2005. 16% of all CEOs in franchising operations are female, compared to just 5% in the current Fortune 500 company line-up. These smaller, more entrepreneurial companies have greater agility and flexibility to allow for stereotypes to be broken down and women to ascend to higher levels of business through flexible working practices.
Emotional intelligence, a skill not just held by women but certainly favoured by them above men, can prove hugely beneficial in a franchising environment. Identifying and empathising with others, no matter their relationship and/or level or background allows for trusted relationships to be built and maintained quickly; particularly helpful in the early stages to help establish the business. In a study of Fortune 500 companies, it was found that those companies with the highest percentage of women on their boards outperformed those in the lowest percentage range by up to 53%! Women’s unique perspectives, ideas and qualities help pave the way for equal access to all through business opportunities as well as to shape businesses in ways that many industries haven’t experienced before.
What’s more, the old stereotype of women being able to multi-task can also prove helpful in franchise management. The flexibility and freedom that owning and running a business can give compared to working for someone else allows women to really shine in their multi-tasking and varied experiences, contributing in unique ways to the business as a whole. Whilst there is of course no one set skillset owned by any gender, there are definitely ways that women can boost a business’ performance in a positive way.
While women definitely have more opportunities in franchising today than ever, there is still undoubtedly lots of work to be done. Organisations such as the British Franchise Association and, more specifically, EWIF (Encouraging Women Into Franchising) offer a variety of support including webinars, workshops, mentoring programmes and funding opportunities for women looking to work in the franchising space. Banking partners, local business improvement districts and other entrepreneurial organisations all also offer assistance and support specifically aimed at women.
For many years, only more stereotypically ‘feminine’ type franchise businesses were bought into and run by women but now other industries have opened up to be more accepting and to encourage and nurture more female owners into roles. Franchises are available through all types of industries, no matter their traditional societal gender categorisation.
Although there is lots of talk from the government, from business promotional organisations and from big businesses on encouraging and promoting women to positions in power, it certainly seems that progress can not be tracked in the positive manner that perhaps would be expected from so much awareness and ‘noise’ on the issue. While women absolutely should continue to take advantage of support programmes available, they too will need to be prepared to take on opportunities fearlessly and unapologetically to create their own success and pave the way where perhaps others will not be as supportive as they should be.
It is expected that the statistics around women in franchises will only increase and with this, we will see franchised businesses move from success to success – a win-win for everyone involved in the sector.
Our statistics show that on average our best performing Franchisees are women; And, despite being in what most would consider a male dominated industry, women often build rapor with clients and contractors alike with greater ease than their male counterparts.
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“A really forward thinking, innovative company”
Dave Georgetti, Franchise Owner