If you’re reading this on our brand new website now, you will know that on Wednesday 16th September, we launched the first-of-its-kind Benefits Platform for self-employed womxn in the UK, that provides them with access to the health, financial and lifestyle benefits and incentives that they deserve, to support their journey, build confidence and reward their hard work.
An idea that first popped into my head back in June 2018 (after noticing recurring challenges crop up in pretty much every interview that I was having with female founders at the time) and as of September 2020, became a reality.
With that in mind, given that for many of you this will be the first time I’ve spoken to you about this – shout out to those of you that found out about this a while back, kept it secret and have put up with my endless research questions over the past two years – I wanted to share why I decided to launch this idea for self-employed womxn in the UK with you all and let you in on why I’ve felt so passionate about bringing it to life since it first popped into my head!
Even though every ounce of me is fighting the urge to just write:
‘Because we deserve it!’
I take my blog posts very seriously though (!) so for the sake of this letter and the time you’ve invested to be here reading this – thank you – I’ll break that down into a bit more detail for you all.
We deserve more security.
When I walked away from my old job in the summer of 2017 and of course, with that the regular pay cheques and fancy corporate perks that job provided me with too, the lack of security that comes hand in hand with being self-employed didn’t hit me properly until I needed to book an eye test a few weeks in… something which used to be covered by my old work as and when I needed it and in hindsight, I very much took for granted at the time.
Now don’t get me wrong, an eye test costs ten pounds, I know. It’s hardly breaking the bank is it?! For me though, it was what that lack of free eye test represented and how vulnerable I felt when it dawned on me for the first time, that if I was going to fully commit to being my own boss and try and turn She can. She did. into the business that I knew it had the potential to become, I was and would continue to be completely exposed. Not only did I not know where my next pay cheque was coming from and felt as though there were so many friends, family members and former colleagues watching what I do next (which is a vulnerable place to be as it is when you’re first starting out and a feeling that has been echoed by so many of the female founders that I’ve interviewed) I no longer had a core security package in place to protect me which let’s face it, you take for granted when you’re employed.
Fast forward three years and the lack of free eye tests no longer surprises me. Nor does the lack of a company pension, the lack of health insurance, the lack of dental care, the lack of discounted gym memberships, the lack of maternity leave… I could go on… that female founders have no choice but to accept when starting out.* It’s the tradeoff for pursuing our dream and daring to go solo, right?
Yet, whilst it’s widely accepted that self-employment equates to no security until you’re financially secure, in my opinion, that doesn’t mean that it’s right.
It doesn’t mean that I’ve accepted it, too.
I wholeheartedly believe that we shouldn’t be penalised for pursuing a career on our own but rather bolstered and championed for that decision instead. The underlying security that core benefits provide in turn builds underlying confidence – mentally, physically and financially – which is invaluable for any female founder at every stage of their companies growth.
* Whilst of course one could argue that there are benefits out there for the self-employed should they with to spend hours trawling the internet for offers, with no HR advisor on standby directing you to the best deals, finding the right benefits requires time which is limited when you’re the boss.
We deserve parity.
I am all too aware that it’s not just female founders that sacrifice core benefits and incentives when launching their own businesses here in the UK. Self-employed men lack access to traditional benefits and perks too. She can. She did. has never and will never deny that fact.
Google any stat that compares self-employed womxn to self-employed men however and you will notice trends in the data that consistently support the notion that business infrastructure favours men:
- For every £1 of VC investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p.
- On average, self-employed men earn 49% more than self-employed womxn each week.
- Only 22% of self-employed womxn have access to a personal or private pension compared to 33% of self-employed men.
- 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs are female.
- Self-employed men are five times more likely to build a business with £1million+ turnover…
The disparity increases for marginalised groups of womxn when you breakdown the notion of ‘self-employed womxn’ and consider the favourable circumstances white women have when compared to their BAME and LGBTQ counterparts.
Every ounce of me believes that these stats should be equal.
All female founders deserve every bit of success, every bit of opportunity and every bit of encouragement that male founders receive. By providing self-employed womxn with tailored benefits, rewards and additional support, I believe that She can. She did. can give us the collective leg up that we need.
We deserve to be rewarded.
The very last ‘why’ on this list, yes, but no less important…
Over the past two and a half years, I’ve met some of the most hardworking, brave and resilient women the UK has to offer. Not just because they’ve found the courage to step away from the conventional career route and take their destiny into their own hands (which until you do so, always sounds a whole lot more glamorous and simple than it actually is) but because the vast majority of women I’ve met over the past few years refuse to give up, even though more often than not, so many odds are stacked against them.
Unfavourable stats mentioned above aside, over the past few years I’ve interviewed female founders who have suffered miscarriages in the morning but turned up to work that afternoon because they have clients relying on them to turn up. Female founders who are grieving from heartbreak and loss behind the scenes but putting on a brave face because compassionate leave doesn’t exist. Female founders who are answering emails from their hospital beds whilst recovering from surgery because they’ve suddenly been taken ill and their business can’t afford to stop. And female founders who have lost 90% of their business overnight when Covid-19 hit and are working around the clock trying to salvage said business whilst adapting to the overwhelming role that is motherhood for the first time.
When you’re the boss, there’s no boss above you telling you to slow down and take some time off; no boss above you giving you praise when you win; and no boss above you telling you that the company has hit its annual targets so “here’s a 10% bonus for all of your hard work…”
If only eh..!?
Instead, all too often in interviews, I hear recurring feelings of “guilt” crop up as and when founders treat themselves to any kind of reward and/or endless talk of little or no time to celebrate the little wins en route – especially in those first few months when revenue is non-existent/low and your savings are dwindling a lot faster than you’d planned for.
Whilst for some therefore, it might be hard to fathom how 20% off a dress will help a female founder to succeed, for me the additional perks are designed to act as a source of encouragement – a virtual pat on the back to say “keep going” if you will – where you need not feel guilty for treating yourself because you’ve earned that exclusive discount and ultimately, little wins en route deserve to be celebrated.
(If a female founder puts their new dress on and it helps them to feel more confident at a networking event or allows them to hold their head that bit higher as they walk in to a pitch with investors, then even better!)
In short, it’s about so much more than wanting to offer a free eye test or a discounted dress.
It’s about providing every self-employed womxn across the UK with a platform that recognises their courage and ambition wholeheartedly and rewards their resilience consistently with the security, network and perks that they aren’t just missing at present…
but fundamentally deserve.
It’s a work in progress.
We’ll always be listening, tweaking and building as we go, but I along with my amazing team are more determined than ever before to make She can. She did. as supportive, beneficial and rewarding for us all going forward.
If you are a self-employed womxn in the UK reading this now, I would love to welcome you on board.
Founder, She can. She did.