When you think about women in work, the first word that springs to mind is flexibility.
Indeed, unlike men, women often request support from their profession to help them balance their working and private lives and combine time at the office with time with family.
The response of the work market in many sectors and countries to this need, has often been weak and faint-hearted: the so-called pink quotas to promote female employment; reduced, versatile working hours – though these are not always easy to obtain; smart-working solutions that are still being tried out; company-provided services supporting women in work, such as company nurseries and childcare, though this is almost exclusively provided by only the most innovative companies.
We have, at least, made the first step towards recognising the importance of gender diversity.
Yet there is a lot more still to do in order to enable female workers to make the most of their leadership potential without having to make compromises on their abilities and passions.
As is so often the case, the result of this has been that women have rolled their sleeves up and attempted to conquer the work market by finding an independent – and undeniably challenging – solution.
One such initiative has been to turn their back on regular, white-collar employment, which is still found wanting in terms of its response to women’s needs, and launch themselves towards the frontiers of entrepreneurship with some truly astonishing results.
According to research conducted by PitchBook, one of the leading market data providers around, more and more women are founding successful start-ups, using brilliant business ideas to attract forward-thinking investors willing to finance these companies with significant investment – with the total amount scaling ten-figure heights.
How has such an astonishing figure been reached? According to PitchBook’s research, the women that have enjoyed success as entrepreneurs and start-up founders are those that have honed their skills and perfected their leadership expertise by undertaking an MBA. Such a course is not just an opportunity for learning, but also for professional and personal development.
By studying for an MBA, women have had particular success in broadening their horizons, finding that all-important inspiration, successfully developing managerial skills and forging contacts to help them promote their ideas and find investment.
Indeed, in the last five years, investment in start-ups founded by alumni of the top ten MBA programmes in the world – the protagonists of the new millennium – has hit a record high of $2.6 billion, according to PitchBook.
And while the driving force behind this phenomenon is – unsurprisingly – the business schools of America, Europe also seems to be surrendering to the appeal of female entrepreneurialism.
One success story goes by the name of Faviola Palomino, an alumna of the MIP MBA programme in Milan. Palomino is the founder of VIP Soul, an e-commerce platform for clothing, accessories and lifestyle products.
According to Faviola, the gender barrier is easily overcome with the right tools, which she identifies as “a sexy start-up with a good track record, an impressive and committed CEO/founder and an excellent team”. In essence, you need the perfect mix in order to attract the most prestigious backers, willing to invest hard work and conviction in a promising idea.
So what are the advantages to women of the pressure cooker of ideas and springboard towards an entrepreneurial career that an MBA represents?
Higher salaries, greater flexibility in terms of working hours, improved ownership of decisions, heightened understanding and extraordinary gratification.
And we call them the weaker sex…