Women Entrepreneurs At The Top – I’m Still Hungry

Watching the concluding episode of BBC 2’s Women at the Top with the fabulous Hilary Devey, I felt unsatisfied. A bit like the feeling you have after a Chinese meal. You feel full as you stand up from the circular rice covered table, but then hours later you are rummaging in the fridge for something else to eat. (Or is that just me??)

Last night, Hilary and the production team at the BBC did a wonderful job of exposing us to innovative employers who think differently about how they can provide flexible working for their employees and cost effective and convenient childcare. These are fantastic places to start and I am sure would encourage more women to stay longer and work their way to the top.

Or would it?

I still don’t think the ultimate issue of corporate culture has been addressed enough. Why is it that smart, ambitious women who have their home lives organised to enable them to have a career still decide to leave? Yes, I know from my research that for those who are mothers, the flexibility of running their own business is appealing. And I also know from that research that these bright, ambitious women get fed up. They don’t want to play in this sandpit anymore, growing tired of the games and politics needed to elbow their way to the boardroom table.

Here we have a conundrum, or do we need to be more patient? Do we hope that the innovative flexible working and child care solutions exposed last night do the trick, as more employees are exposed to this new way, that the toxic culture dissolves and more women stick around. Or does the same level on innovation and investment need to be poured into changing the fundamental framework of the corporate culture?

If Hilary and her team had spoken to those senior level women who had chosen to leave when they were so close to the top, then my hunger would have started to dissipate. If we had got past the easy answers of flexible working and affordable childcare as solutions to help women stay, and really came up with some ground breaking ideas abut culture change through out all levels of the organisaton, then that would have made me feel completely satisfied.

Let me know what you think….

The research summary of 300 women business owners who left corporate to set up their own business can be found here:




  • http://www.theflyingmarketer.co.uk Mary Munley

    I found the programmes fascinating but so many issues not explored. As someone with no children I felt the focus on childcare being a barrier was a diversion from the more important culture issues as you say Wendy. Is it any easier for single women to get to the top? My experience in corporate life (25 years) was that “the top” was not an attractive place to be because of nepotism and bullying. If you can’t get on you get out and create your own culture.

  • http://www.pins.uk.com Trisha Proud

    I sadly did not see this programme, which I have no doubt I would have loved. Is the concept of the ‘Glass Ceiling’ dead? No I don’t think it is; In fact I believe that there are several barriers to women’s career progression. I think that this topic has attracted a lot of exposure over recent years and to combat this many organisations have worked towards rather patronising ‘quotas’ in terms of female managers and directors, whilst others have created other barriers or ‘limitations’, such as experience, age etc.

    One survey I read said that the 18 – 23 year old age group claimed that age had been a barrier they’d already encountered, which I think is somewhat naïve, as I don’t believe that with the best will in the world it is reasonable or practical to gain the wealth of knowledge and ‘rounded experience’, before somebody reaches the age of 23 years+, that managers will need to see in order to take a potential promotion seriously.

    There is a huge gap of missing Female Middle Managers, most probably due to women on maternity leave or disillusioned women who leave to pursue entrepreneurial ventures; thus women who have aspired to this level of management literally ‘drop out’ of the system, the route to the boardroom. This factor is a real shame because I believe that women (with the right skill set) can offer balance and a unique perspective to many all male boards, and have no doubt that many businesses today are missing out of this level of intelligent and constructive input.
    Trisha Proud
    Partners in Solutions Ltd

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