Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs Discuss Leadership in Edinburgh

Fiona Murray - photo by Jonathan Littlejohn M.A.Earlier this month The NextWomen was invited to the "New Approaches to Leadership for Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs" workshop by Informatic Ventures where female founders from Scotland and across Europe discussed entrepreneurship. The over 50 women attending proved nothing but leadership and innovation in each of their man-dominated fields of technology, yet took the opportunity to discuss new approaches with experts from the MIT Sloan School of Management and each other.

Women and Leadership - Questioning and Understanding Statistics
The one-day programme was led by professors Fiona Murray, Laura Barker Morse and Glenda Burkhart who showed amazing talent in triggering constructive group discussions - from behaviour profiles to case studies and group exercises, always trying to evaluate whether women's leadership approaches could be generalised as such, and how they could be improved.

The agenda included very interesting discussions around the latest statistics from the Kauffman Foundation about Women in leadership roles. Why are there not more women in boards?  Male environments versus executive talent pipelines. Do women not get invited to leadership roles or do they turn them down? Although most people in the room agreed to never have heard of women turning down offers to leadership and board roles. How can we accelerate women access to VC funding? Women often focus on realistic return forecasts on investment and don't always look as appealing as their male counterparts. Are there enough female investors? Not statistically speaking, and that may impactwomen's access to funding. Why do women founders tend to lead smaller teams? For various reasons, but is that really a problem or can it be an advantage?

Attendees including NextMentor Lesley Eccles - Photo by Jonathan Littlejohn M.A.
As we went on discussing these points, many others surfaced - from the mother-founder dynamics to the difficulties in "pitching" and selling to partners, customers, investors and many others. How have these things impacted women's growing role in businesses leadership, and how can these evolve further?

Case Study - Meg Whitman

Flickr - by Whiteafrican
The choice in case studies couldn't be more timely - a successful business woman trying to launch her career into politics. As we watched a video from Meg Whitman in 2004, talking to Harvard students about her career and learning experience, it showed once again that it takes failure to find the route to success. Meg's work experience before eBay is what made her successful at it, and has made her appreciate the "luck factor" as being non-negligible.

The main learnings from the Meg Whitman/eBay case were good reminders of how to best do business:

  • You are never as good as you think
  • You are never as bad as you think
  • Failures are great, learn from them
  • You cannot be good at everything, learn to delegate
  • Patience pays off - "your career is a marathon, not a sprint"
  • Part of success is luck
  • Never compromise your integrity, it is all you have in the end

Personal Leadership Assessment & Behaviour Styles
Each attendee was requested to take an online test and read about their "behaviour style" prior to the event, which made the discussion all the more relevant - Learning about yourself is always the best route to learning how to interact with others.

The AISM survey model has 4 main behaviour profiles, and fits people in one of them, or between them, showing which are too strong or too weak, that we should work on. To summarise them:

  • Controllers - Focused on results and efficiency, they like to take action and can leverage conflict and change
  • Analyzers - Focused on quality and accuracy, they like to leverage facts, data and history
  • Persuaders - Focused on people, they enjoy taking risks and value the fun in work, great in sales
  • Stabilizers - They focus on relationships and stability, they are very strong at maintaining harmony

Behaviour Styles
In a room of founders, in the technology space, most of us fit into the controller category - while others frowned on being a Stabilizer. We were all fans of change, innovation and taking action, all very oriented to results, and although we all knew it already, it was useful to discuss it once again and truly appreciate how diversity makes a winning team.

To put these learnings into practice, the one-day workshop ended with one-to-one pitches with mentors and advisors, for the aspiring female founders to practice pitching themselves, versus only their businesses, for once.

Networking in the Land of Inventions
Photo by Jonathan Littlejohn M.A.
Scotland has long been known for its many inventions that changed the World - It could not be any different when it came to local entrepreneurship in the post-recession years. Ideas, experience, advice and business cards were flowing between the various entrepreneurs, from The NextWomen NextMentor Lesley Eccles of FanDuel, Tanya Ewing of energy management system EWGECO, Eve Hatton of simple touch platform OmniQare, Alice Ratcliffe of Shop Pulse, Jackie Smith of real-time IT implementation management software Agenor, Ingrid Savill of creative waste products Reecovid, Jackie Schooleman of desktop virtual reality system Virtual Proteins to so many other inventors, innovators and leaders in the technology space.

As we all go back to our businesses, we bring with us the knowledge that everything we do in business is a choice, our choice, and we better always make it a conscious one - from interacting with people, to sticking to priorities, establishing company culture and defining and redefining our goals. Aspiring female founders are all around the World, and there is nothing to stop them from growing their businesses and excelling in their careers.

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