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Gender

Young Women: Battle Sexism with Business

Businesses run by women in Britain generate £130bn for our economy. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of female-owned companies in the U.S. grew 44 percent, twice as fast as the number of male-owned firms. And in China, women own more than 40 percent of private businesses.

This trend is a global phenomenon and at the same time it’s clear that many of our empowered businesswomen are choosing to opt out of the male-dominated boardroom.

MALE-DOMINATED BOARDS
Half the FTSE 250 companies still hold an entirely male board. Despite a new generation of bright, ambitious young female graduates, it remains a fact that the attrition rate of women in senior professional positions is much higher than with their male counterparts – and it’s not only because they marry and devote time to raising children.

The current model simply doesn’t work for the new generation of women. As a result, they are choosing instead to find their own entrepreneurial niche.

This led me to consider the role of successful female leaders in business and politics to help instil a sense of ambition and opportunity in young women, so that instead of having to break through the glass ceiling, they can see a way to disrupt the status quo and avoid it entirely.

REALIZING POTENTIAL
There is a clear need for the existing professional businesswomen who serve as today’s female role models to inspire more women to realize their potential as business leaders.

We could start with French finance minister Christine Lagarde winning her bid to take over from Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund. For me, she’s an outstanding choice and the world would be lucky to have her. She’s battled her way through the male-dominated legal profession to reach an eminent position at the pinnacle of finance. Now she is a mainstay on the Forbes’ list of Power Women.

If appointed to the role, she has promised to bring her “expertise as a lawyer, a minister, a manager, and a woman” to the job. Her influence would grow dramatically and she would be an inspiration for young women everywhere.

ONE YOUNG WORLD
It is these sorts of examples that motivated me to start One Young World – a global forum for young leaders – with David Jones, CEO of Havas, last year. This September, we will be holding One Young World’s second summit to discuss these ideas and, importantly, give a platform to young women to voice their concerns about world issues.

I encourage you to look into the movement and see if you, your company, or community can get involved. Visit www.oneyoungworld.com for more information.

Kate Robertson is U.K. group chairman of Euro RSCG and co-founder of One Young World.

This post originally ran on City A.M.

Image credit: Creative Commons/Alaivani@flickr.com

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