Lancaster University celebrates women in business with lively event

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Business leaders sparked a lively debate at Lancaster University this week when they shared their inspirational stories of breaking into business with students and academics during Women in Entrepreneurship Week.

Students and academics gathered to hear from female and male entrepreneurs from Lancashire who formed an expert panel, sharing personal stories of becoming entrepreneurs in the region and how the current gender order influenced their own journey into self-employment.

Jane Dalton, Jane Binnion, Ruth Power and Ian Steel, who all run local businesses and volunteer to be ‘Entrepreneurs in Residence’ at Lancaster University Management School, joined Lancaster academics and students to promote and celebrate women’s entrepreneurship.

Dr Sophie Alkhaled from the Department of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Lancaster University Management School organised the event. She said: “It was fantastic to call upon the knowledge and experience of some of our Entrepreneurs in Residence to inspire the next generation of leaders.

“Research shows that women’s entrepreneurship is essential for our economic growth and the government has been pushing this agenda forward, particularly since the economic downturn in 2008.

“Yet women continue to face gendered-boundaries across various aspects of business, such as achieving finance and breaking into the usually male-dominated networks. So, this event was organised to mark the fifth ever Women in Entrepreneurship Week, which has grown to become a global movement and an international celebration of female founders.”

“It was a perfect opportunity to bring the theories we discuss in the classroom into practice through their life stories and experiences. Our Entrepreneurs in Residence are engrained within the community of our Management School and volunteer to share insight and expertise, run mock interviews or masterclasses to offer students the perspective from front line of business. In return, the entrepreneurs get to work with fantastic students who have new ideas, strengthen their own networks and access world-class academics.”

Jane Binnion, Founder of The Growing Club CIC started out in business as a social media trainer after a shoulder injury left her, as a single mum, living on £80 a week. She said: “I couldn’t believe it. I was a professional who had worked my whole life and suddenly I was about to lose my house.”

Jane Dalton launched Groundswell Innovation after gaining a first class MBA from Cambridge University. She said: “Things changed when I had my children. I knew I could no longer compete on the same terms, fitting as many working hours as possible in to each day for my employer. I loved the projects I was working on, but I needed to change the rules of the game. I wanted to work for myself and spend time with my family on my own terms.”

Ruth Power is the Director of Business Development at Financial Management Bureau. She said: “At the beginning I suffered with imposter syndrome. You wonder if you can do it and doubt yourself. I am not sure if this was a woman-thing. I think men get it too, but perhaps women more so than men.”

Ian Steel, owner of local coffee company, J.Atkinson & Co, said about working with his wife: “I have had many female role models over the years, from my mother, sisters and female colleagues. I could not have run this business without my wife. She is my soul mate, my friend, my business partner.”

Lancaster University Management School’s Entrepreneurship and Strategy department offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the fields of Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Innovation, and International Business. The department also offers specialised courses to organisations and advises and supports many SMEs as well as large organisations in the UK and internationally in their strategy development process. It has recently expanded its area of expertise to Leadership and is one of the UK’s most competitive teaching and research institutions in these disciplines. For more information on the department’s teaching and research activities, visit: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/lums/our-departments/entrepreneurship-and-strategy/