What is holding women back from reaching their full financial potential?
New research from beauty brand Avon reveals that income (47%), lack of flexible working opportunities (37%), and the ability to start their own business (20%) are among the biggest inequalities that UK women believe they face, holding them back from reaching their full potential financially and at work.
The Global Progress for Women Report by Avon, which reflects the views of more than 7,000 women in seven countries including the UK, finds that while over half of women in the UK (55%) would like to earn more money, whether that is through another income stream or in their current role, nearly a third (31%) believe access to setting up your own business is in favour of men.
With a legacy of championing women for over 136 years and a business model which allows women greater choice and freedom to earn money, Avon is calling for people to challenge the barriers preventing women from equal access to work and earnings.
Obstacles to entrepreneurship
According to the World Economic Forum, female entrepreneurship is growing around the world, with between eight and 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises across the developing world having at least one female owner.
Despite this, men still outnumber women three to one when it comes to business ownership.
The four most common obstacles women surveyed in the UK find when it comes to starting their own business are finances (52%), not knowing where to start (37%), lack of confidence (36%) and fear of failure (36%).
Consistent with Avon’s findings that the biggest obstacle for women surveyed is finance, research from Atomico finds that women founders’ share of investment has stagnated, with 87% of all venture capital funding in Europe raised by men-only founding teams.
Alarmingly, investment in women-only teams has dropped from 3% to 1%, despite evidence which shows women can deliver a 25% better return.
Progress to be made
While data from the World Economic Forum suggests that the global gender gap narrowed by 68.1% over the past year, it also suggests that at this rate of progress it will take 132 years to reach full parity.
Whilst measurable structural progress has been made, Avon’s research finds that women’s lived experiences in the UK show there is still much work to do; 80% believe stereotypes favoured towards men are a barrier to equal opportunities.
The cost-of-living crisis has also contributed to the stalling of progress towards gender parity, with Avon’s research showing nearly three-quarters (74%) of UK women believe the cost-of-living crisis has negatively impacted their finances.
In addition, women are four times more likely to feel they are most impacted by it, versus their male counterparts.
Access to flexible working opportunities
According to WEF data from 33 countries, men’s share of time spent in unpaid work as a proportion of total work was 19%, while for women this was 55%. Despite this, according to Avon’s research, over a third (36%3) of women surveyed around the world think flexibility in the workplace is in favour of men, compared to just over one in eight (13%) who think it’s in favour of women.
Two in five women (41%) go as far to say it is difficult for them to work flexibly in relation to men. By not enabling or advocating for women to work flexibly, society holds women back from their earning potential, particularly if they choose or need to be a caregiver.
This is having a major impact on reaching gender equity, with a third (34%) of women surveyed saying taking on childcare responsibilities has had a negative effect on their career progression.
UK Ambassador to Creative Small Businesses and Founder of notonthehighstreet, Holly Tucker MBE, commented: “After mentoring and championing UK small business owners for over 20 years, I’ve been lucky enough to witness the life-changing benefits of running your own business, especially for women.
“Helping women flourish and fly, doing what they love, all whilst achieving financial independence, it’s one of the greatest privileges I’ve ever been given.
“However, I know from my experiences of building both of my own two businesses that there’s so much progress still to be made when it comes to achieving gender equality — even though it’s proven how much it would benefit our broader society.
“We want to make that a reality, and that’s why Avon’s purpose to create opportunities for women to earn flexibly with such quality support and coaching really resonates with me.
“I wish more businesses had women at the heart of their brands, as Avon does — imagine what the world would look like?”
Angela Cretu, CEO of Avon comments: “Study after study has shown us that when women are empowered and engaged, all of society benefits – a better world for women is a better world for all.
“Whilst some countries are taking positive steps forward, many women are still experiencing barriers when it comes to freedom of choice, work and the opportunity to earn. We want to change that.
“For over 136 years, driving positive change for women has been hard-wired into Avon’s business: every time you buy a lipstick you are helping to support a female entrepreneur.
“Removing the barriers to economic participation that women face is crucial to helping drive progress for women. On International Women’s Day, there is no better time to shine a light on this and open up the conversation.”