By Ashley Hobbs
Sadly, entrepreneurship has for many years been perceived to be a male discipline.
Big names ranging from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg are touted as examples of men who have done everything from quit college to work extremely hard in pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals – and they’re certainly deserving of praise. But what many people don’t know is that there are a whole host of female entrepreneurs out there who are working just as hard and who have in many cases taken just as many risks as their male counterparts to get where they are today. Some examples are given below.
One of the biggest names in the world of female entrepreneurship is Meg Whitman. The CV of this American executive is lengthy and impressive. Over the course of decades in commerce, she has worked for a wide variety of companies including Hewlett Packard (HP) and The Walt Disney Company. She also sits on a number of boards overseeing well known brands such as Dropbox – a move which means that she can have both the hands-on experience of running a firm while also providing the strategic oversight skills that many successful entrepreneurs have in abundance.
Whitman is also a prime example of someone who has used the skills developed as an entrepreneur to do other things later in life. In Whitman’s case, she entered US politics and both advised other candidates and stood for office herself. She worked on the presidential campaign of Republican candidate Mitt Romney, for example, while she threw her hat into the ring in a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to become the Governor of California. In short, she’s definitely an inspiration for any women – or, indeed, any man – thinking of entering the entrepreneurship field.
Lady Barbara Judge is another example of a woman who has ranged across a variety of positions in her lifetime. Her first big break came when she graduated from the New York University School of Law, something that acted as a springboard for her entering corporate law and later into merchant banking. She has also worked for News International, the firm owned by global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, as an executive director.
But her business interests haven’t ended with jobs at other firms. She has also set up her own company, called Private Equity Investor, and she has also gone on to advocate on behalf of the wider community of entrepreneurs, including as business ambassador for the British government. And with knowledge and specialism in fields like nuclear power, she has remained ahead of the curve and always has her eye on the next big thing.
There are plenty of other female entrepreneurs with connections to the UK, proving it’s not just in Silicon Valley where women can make a difference. Perhaps one of the most famous in recent years has been Karren Brady. Sport is where Brady has made her business name: she formerly served as managing director at the West Midlands football club Birmingham City, and she is now Vice Chair of West Ham United. This makes Brady a prime example of someone who has broken out of traditional gender roles on two fronts: not only is she a significant businessperson in her own right with a proven track record, she has also made her name in a field (sport) which is stereotypically male-dominated.
She is also an example of someone who has turned to a more subtle form of entrepreneurship – running her own brand. She has appeared in a wide variety of media contexts, including most famously as an assistant to Alan Sugar on the UK version of The Apprentice. She also has her own newspaper column in The Sun, which increases her profile even further. In this way, she has shown herself to be savvy when it comes to finding opportunities to diversify her own business interests, and to use her experience and skills in the diverse and dynamic world of the media to act as an inspiration for others who might want to follow in her footsteps.
As this article has revealed, there are plenty of leading female entrepreneurs who have done a great job building successful businesses large and small. From Meg Whitman to Barbara Judge and everyone in between, there are countless examples of hard-working women who have got their careers to where they want them to be. And for those women who are just at the start of their entrepreneurial journey, stories like those of the women outlined here can definitely serve as an inspiration to get their business idea off the ground.