Twenty-five years ago I heard the song Wannabe on the radio. It was released by an upcoming girl group called The Spice Girls. I remember thinking great song, the pant’s name! The Spice Girls sounded like a group of chefs, not a pop band! Wannabe was a great song and quickly propelled this group of five young women into the spotlight and set them up for their future, can I say it, stardom. Mel B, Emma, Geri, and Victoria, otherwise known as Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty. Together they made ‘girl power’ a focus for the next generation of girls who were inspired by their outspoken attitudes. These were girls who have since become business owners and leaders of huge companies.
I was a huge fan of the Spice Girls right from the very first moment I saw them dancing around on their music video for Wannabe. They looked like they were really having fun and didn’t take themselves too seriously. I was also very happy to have a trendy, girl group that included young black women that I could look up to. I really related to Mel B, better known as Scary Spice! She was never afraid to be seen and speak up. She said what she thought without apologies and I am grateful that I grew up when the Spice Girls were starting their rise to fame. Recently Rolling Stone even voted ‘Girl Power’ as the second most important movement for the Millennial generation.
Although undoubtedly the world has changed a great deal the rise of ‘Girl Power’ has not significantly increased the percentage of female CEOs in the UK or in the USA. Back in 1995, a Hansard Society Commission report (McRae, 1995) reported only 6% of 120 firms in The Times “Top 200” companies in the UK, had female executive main board directors. Sadly the FTSE 100 recorded that only 6% of females were CEOs in 2021 in the UK. In the USA the S&P 500 reports the same figure, just 6% of CEOs are women. Even more astounding is that the first female CEO of an FTSE 100 company in the UK was, Marjorie Scardino who was appointed CEO of Pearson. in 1997.
Currently, the six companies in the FTSE100 in the UK with a female CEO are Whitbread (although they have a man on their adverts), ITV, Seven Trent plc, NatWest Group, Imperial Brands, and GlaxoSmithKline. The abysmal percentage of female CEOs in the FTSE100 is not acceptable and I strongly believe is a great disadvantage to the UK economy as a whole. It has been indicated that if the same proportion of women as men started and grew their own business then as much as £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy. One thing I know for sure is that women lack neither the ability, determination, ambition, or work ethic that is needed to start and expand a business. Neither is a lack of funding an issue, in fact, the UK attracts a higher level of venture capital than any other European country. The issue is that only 1% of all venture funding goes to female business owners. This has to change and it is up to us women to make sure it does. No one can do it for us, we must join together to form supportive networks and mentor each other. Fight to be noticed and receive funding and prove that women are just as, if not more capable than men at starting and running profitable companies. My belief is that as the percentage of women who are able to access funding increases, more companies will see the value of having women CEO’s. In turn, as the number of female CEOs rises, the opportunities for women in higher-level positions will consequently increase.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of business has changed dramatically. With remote working now becoming a staple part of roles at numerous companies and flexible working no longer the exception, now is the time to seize this change and run with it. Women have fought for their rights since the suffragette days and won! I am determined that we can achieve so much more in the world of business if, like the Spice Girls, we are not afraid to be outspoken and embrace our inner ‘Girl Power’.