Since our initial launch in 2004, my small business has always hired an all-female team. While this wasn’t a goal, the stationery market predominantly attracts women. As our workforce grew and the skills of our female employees became apparent, hiring women became a greater part of our identity. As we branched out into training apprentices, nurturing female talent also became a focus.
There are advantages to employing a mixed-gender workforce, but our all-female team has brought many benefits to the business. My companies, Dotty about Paper and Tree of Hearts, sell stationery for special occasions, such as birthday parties and weddings. Our female employees have been able to use their natural flair for composition and colour to create stunning stationery designs. This eye for detail also helps us personalise customer orders when unique requests come through.
It might be a cliché to say women excel at communication and empathy, but it’s usually the case! As a customer service-driven company, our team’s skills at providing a tailored experience to every customer is invaluable. Communication and insight also keep the team working well together, as colleagues are quick to notice when someone’s having difficulties.
As a business leader guiding a female workforce, I think it’s important to remember gender isn’t everything. When discussing the benefits of male and female employees, you shouldn’t forget that everyone is an individual. No matter who makes up your own company, trying to create a ‘one size fits all’system for management can hold you back. Keeping a flexible leadership style that considers everyone’s individual needs will help you get the best out of every employee.
In addition to learning new leadership styles, I’ve also had to develop the ability to determine my employees’ strengths and weaknesses. The one feeds into the other; if you’re conscious of how someone responds to your guidance, you’re more likely to spot the areas where they excel and make the most of that skill. I’ve found that many women enjoy an ‘open-door policy’, where they feel comfortable to approach me with concerns; this, in turn, helps me to accommodate their needs, which reduces absences.
If you are a female entrepreneur looking to enter the business sector, my first piece of advice is simply to go for it! Taking the plunge can often be the most difficult step, but developing the ability to take measured risks will help you now and in the future. In a fast-paced market environment, opportunities can go as quickly as they come, so flexibility is also key. Learning to research and forecast will, in turn, allow you to make the best possible choices when opportunities arise. It’s a balancing act between risk and reward, but learning how to keep that balance is invaluable.
Finding a strong female role model is another way you can boost your skillset and push forward with your career. It’s not just about making contacts, it’s about sharing knowledge and inspiring others. In our all-female team, we have a mix of different ages, backgrounds, and skills. I’ve seen first-hand how colleagues can help their peers to grow and develop, helping to train each other in areas where they’re not as confident.
Female business owners also have a responsibility to inspire other women on the corporate ladder. Many business sectors lack women in leadership positions, so if you’re currently in a key role, your presence can really motivate others to strive forwards.
Written by Lisa Forde