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The secrets of female entrepreneurs with Ruth Saunders

Author and Expert Speaker, Ruth Saunders, breaks down the reasons women choose to go into business, and how you can transition successfully.

Sophie Thompson
10th May 2021

93% of VC funding goes to male-owned start-ups. It's a shocking stat and one that's important to address for the sake of gender imbalance in business - it's also why we enlisted the help of Author, Expert Speaker, and Marketer of 30+ years, Ruth Saunders.

During an exclusive session for friends of ContentCal, Ruth took us through the research she discovered when writing her first book, Female Entrepreneurs: The Secrets of Their Success. To create the book, Ruth sat down with 52 women in business, from totally different backgrounds, to learn about their experiences, challenges, and the advice they'd give to women wanting to follow in their footsteps.

Watch the session below, or keep scrolling for a summary of the topics covered.

Believe it or not, having a great idea is not the reason most people go into business. For women especially, the great ideas come second, with reasons such as flexible working hours and childcare needs coming out on top.

The main six reasons Ruth discovered for women wanting to start their own business are:

  1. Childhood influences: being inspired by someone in their family or a mentor who has taken a similar path
  2. Combining a career with caring for a family: removing the need for long hours in the office and the issues they cause with childcare, while still aiming for career progression
  3. Creating a more flexible and collaborative working environment: there is a point when life becomes more of a priority than working 9-5. Owning your own business provides more freedom, and can be a way to start to wind down.
  4. Out of necessity to survive: during COVID, many people have started their own businesses out of necessity, overcoming challenges such as losing a job unexpectedly
  5. Having a great idea: this may seem like the obvious one, but having a game-changing idea doesn't always come with the confidence needed to take the leap!
  6. Following a passion: even before ideas are fully formulated, the knowledge that doing something you enjoy as an alternative to being in a position you don't like, makes it worth taking a chance!

The biggest challenges women face

There are two main parts to the challenges women face. Ruth explained that the trigger for wanting to start your own business, in the middle of your career, can come from existing challenges in the workplace - but once you take the leap of faith and scale-up, you face a different set of challenges. It's this second set of challenges that can give you the confidence you need to become successful, once you overcome them.

Workplace challenges that trigger women to be their own boss include:

  • Being passed over for promotions or bonuses
  • Lack of senior, female role models
  • Being forced into second-tier roles when having young children

When taking action and starting a business, you can then be faced with challenges such as:

  • Overcoming a lack of confidence
  • Overcoming a fear of failure
  • The majority of VC funding going to male-owned businesses
  • The fact women still do the lion's share of domestic work!

However, despite some seemingly negative aspects of starting a business as a female, there are certain skills women have, that can provide an advantage in the long run. This includes:

  • The ability to multitask
  • Lateral thinking
  • Less of an ego

These could all be reasons that despite only 32% of business-owners being female (a step up from the 17% just four years ago), female-owned firms create more jobs and generate higher revenues than male equivalents.

Screenshot 2021-05-10 at 12.38.21

How can females be encouraged to follow their passion?

Ruth shared some great insight collated from the responses of the 52 women interviewed in her book, broken down into action that needs to be taken from a variety of places.

Corporate companies

Address the male bias! The proportion of women in senior management roles is still a mere 29%. Encourage female co-workers to get excited and seize opportunities to move up the ladder, and adapt promotion/recruitment policies to support this.


Address the funding bias! As per the previous stat, a shocking 93% of VC funding is handed to males. There is an opportunity to seek out female entrepreneurs, provide training on VC applications, or adapt/produce communications that encourage female-owned businesses to seek investment.


Support other women! The best thing we can do is lift each other up and allow each other to be heard in what can still seem like a man's world.

Society in general

Lean in and lean out. Use your voice to challenge gender bias in the workplace and be the change we need to see.

If you enjoyed the session with Ruth, she'll be joining us again on May 20th to share best practices and top tips for 'marketing the boardroom'. This session will provide advice on how you can win over the hearts and minds of the board and build your own business case. You can register here.

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