Why women should invest in women

Last week we ran the first in our series of Comedy in the Community events supported by Medway Council and the Government's Leveling Up fund. This was a Stand Up to Stand Out workshop with a 'twist' towards teamwork and confidence-building aimed at the workplace and leadership.

This brought forth, as these events always do, 20 incredibly talented, articulate, and funny women (pictured above) who came from all walks of life: different ages, backgrounds and culture reflective of our amazing community here in Medway. However, I have observed more generally, that whilst women will attend traditional business networking events, they are more reluctant to attend something with the words 'funny' or 'comedy' in the title, which is surprising when humor plays such a vital role in our lives. Collectively women are really funny.

Which leads me on to ask if, as women, do we invest enough in ourselves? Not just in terms of our appearance, families, homes but in our personal and professional development. Men are less likely to question this need as the 'grunt work' around childcare, housekeeping, and relationship management is still a largely female domain. Yet with the tide turning (I hope) towards a more equal society we need to seize the opportunities, particularly the free ones, to learn, upskill ourselves and network.

I wonder if the whole 'show me your funny' vibe in a business context, smacks of masculinity and is perceived as confronting and threatening. Yet it's the women with the funniest, loudest and most memorable voices that we need to encourage into leadership roles and public life right now.

Money and power are always associated with 'big dick' energy so it's no wonder that when it comes to the world of finance and investment, women are less visible. While we openly celebrate and revere successful 'high heeled' businesswomen at this time of year, what are these women giving back to other women, (other than an insecurity complex – those heels don't walk themselves) both in terms of what it takes to succeed in business, and sisterhood? Does this even exist?

I meet a lot of successful women through my work with the Federation of Small Businessesthe All Party Parliamentary Group for Women & Enterprise and by attending events run by networks like the Trouble Club, Women in PR (of whom I'm a proud past president), Women in Journalism, Savvitas, Sister Snog and more.

Over my long career I have seen changes in attitude which directly relate to the proliferation of women's networks. When I set up my first business, a PR consultancy 40 years ago, there was only one exclusively female network, called Network, and it was an honor to be invited to join. Now there's a women's networks for every trade, profession and interest.

I've recently come across several organizations targeting female founders, and they are almost all aimed at start-ups and younger women. While this is progress, there's very little obvious investment and support for those of us who've been in business for a long time who are coping with the after effects of Brexit, Covid and the current cost of living crisis. As an older woman, running a business that requires a new approach to funding and a line of succession, I see no strategies for encouraging younger women to invest their time and skills into existing businesses that would greatly welcome and benefit from their energy.

With the official International Women's Day looming at the end of this week (Friday 8th March), I'd like to make two suggestions:

Invest in yourself – don't be afraid of the unknown as you never know what hidden talents you may have until you try. I don't just mean comedy, although I do recommend it, but maybe try something new and out of your usual comfort zone like an art class, singing in a choir or volunteering. These are not just 'fluffy' hobbies but integral to your health and wellbeing, enabling you to function in the workplace as well as enriching your personal life.

Invest in other women – if you are lucky enough to be financially comfortable then think about how you can support other female-led businesses. Start with small low key investments by joining platforms like Patreon (which we use at Funny Women) used by creatives to finance their work, and SubStack where you can support female writers. If you have more disposable income please look around for businesses that could benefit from your skills and financial input. With funding and sponsorship at its lowest in decades, supporting purpose-led businesses like mine provides a lifeline, particularly to those of us in the arts and creative industries. Philanthropy might be a real solution to a very big problem.

As a woman, investing in other women is the most powerful thing you can do over the next month as we celebrate International Women's Day. I invest my time in women all year round by running Funny Women but as a non-profit business we are not taken seriously for any kind of investment because there is no tangible financial return. I want to change that and put a value on 'feel good'.

My 'ask' is that you invest either your time and/or money to support another woman or her business because our power is in collaboration. By coming together, we can truly change the world.

Sign up for our next free Comedy in the Community event, HOW TO HAVE FUN AT WORK, on Tuesday 19th March taking place at The Commissioner's House in the Historic Dockyard Chatham. Booking link here and more details about the event here.

PS: After more than 20 years in business I am pleased (and a little surprised!) to be part of the #WISE100 Ones to Watch 2024 – a brand new list of 30 women recognized for our brilliant work in social enterprise and impact investing. Validation indeed that women are worth investing in. Thanks to Pioneers Post and to NatWest Social & Community Capital for including me. Read more about this here.

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Written by ezzeddif

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