Women are urged to remove all obstacles to succeed in business
Professor Susan Marlow, professor of entrepreneurship at Nottingham University Business School, was the guest speaker at a Business is Good for Women lunch held at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s recent business and trade expo.
Susan gave a brief overview of her career that saw her leave school at 16 – choosing to go out to work in order to buy a pony rather than take her A Levels.
By the age of 24, she had done 28 jobs ranging from being a riding teacher in Austria to a barmaid in Coventry but opted for something more conventional to provide a good life for her and her son.
“I realised that if there is something you want in life, you have to remove all of the obstacles yourself,” she said.
“If you really want it, then you have to work for it. I had fantastic support from my parents who stepped in to help look after my son while I concentrated on my education and I was also working at weekends, horse training, to help pay the bills.
Blighted by sexism
“I rose to become a professor but, like business, academia is still blighted by sexism.
“Some of it is just about language and presumption. Think of a professor and most people think ‘beard and tweed’ so automatically are thinking of a man.
“But it gets much worse than that – there have been times when people have assumed I must have had an affair with senior colleagues to get promotion, not because of my ability.
“So while the world likes to think that we are a society of equals, it is still difficult for women to achieve because there are assumptions about what we are capable of.
“Women are still expected to take prime responsibility for domestic tasks and there is a feeling that women must ‘act like men’ if they want to be a success in the workplace.
“Look at our Parliament – if we carry on the rate at which we are going it will be 400 years before we have parity between men and women.
“So we must continue to speak out and work towards a society where men and women share responsibility and the only reason you get a job is because you are the best person for it.
Breaking down the barriers
“I want competence and ability to be recognised – not whether you are a man or woman. We have to be careful about the language we use in everyday life that suggests men are more inclined to be a success in business. Businessmen and chairman, for example, what’s wrong with business person or chair?
“Ultimately, I want women, and men for that matter, to know that even if you make a ridiculous decision at the age of 16 or 17 about a pony, it’s not too late to change path but you have to be willing to break down the barriers yourself.”
Peter Burns, president of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Professor Marlow’s presentation was absolutely fascinating, entertaining and truly inspirational. We thank her for coming to speak to our Business is Good for Women group and the issues she highlighted show why groups such as this remain necessary.”
First published in Edge Magazine.
Posted on Wednesday 14th October 2015