Empowering Female Leaders: Insights from Our Roundtable Discussion

Being a Founder is no easy task, let alone a leader in a minority group. Female Founders make up just 8% of UK Founders, with there only being 21 CEOs at FTSE 100 UK companies (Statista). As of 2022, there were 21 women chief executive officers (CEOs) at FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies in the UK, with nine at FTSE 100 companies, and 12 at FTSE 250 ones. So how are Female Leaders holding their own in a landscape dominated by males?

To explore this, we hosted a roundtable discussion as part of our "Empower" group of Manchester-based female founders. We sat down with leading female leaders in the North-West to explore how they’re tackling challenges like ‘imposter syndrome’, external stakeholders, maintaining a resilient mindset, and succeeding as leaders. Here are the key takeaways from our session.

1. Empowering Female Leaders

Empowering female founders is vital for navigating Leadership in the technology sector. Establishing and engaging with networks that specifically support female entrepreneurs can provide lots of benefits not just networking opportunities. Sure, these networks serve as useful platforms for networking and community building, but also help foster confidence and overcome any self-doubt that comes with being a minority group. Being able to foster resilience is far easier when you're in a room among others on the same journey.

By participating in these groups, female founders can share experiences, receive support, and cultivate a sense of belonging, all of which help share confidence and resilience.

But where to go to join these communities?:

  1. Professional Organisations and Associations: Many industries have specific organisations or associations that offer networking events, workshops, and conferences. E.g., in the technology industry, you can join Women Who Code or Girls in Tech.

  2. Meetup.com: This website provides a platform for creating and joining groups based on interests and professions. You can find many local and virtual networking groups tailored to female founders and entrepreneurs.
  3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is not only for online connections but also for finding networking events through various groups. You can join groups based on your industry or interest and participate in discussions and networking events.

  4. Women’s Business Centers: Supported by the Small Business Administration, these centres offer networks, mentorship, and training for women entrepreneurs.

  5. Conferences and Trade Shows: Attending industry-specific trade shows and conferences is another excellent way to meet peers and industry leaders.

  6. Social Media and Online Communities: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and niche online forums host various groups where you can find information and engage in discussions.

2. Redefining ‘Imposter Syndrome’

Imposter syndrome is often ascribed to women, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy around reasonable emotions and reactions in challenging situations. However, the term itself can be counterproductive, with its highly negative connotations.

How can we combat this?

Reframing challenges as learning opportunities, practising self-empathy, and engaging in positive self-talk are all great ways we can eliminate this term thrown around the female leadership landscape. But essentially, by avoiding using the phrase altogether we can prevent inaccurate labelling.


3. Resilience and Growth Mindset

Resilience is critical in overcoming challenges and uncertainties and is something that can often take a long time to develop. Focus on your achievements rather than shortcomings and learn to embrace and navigate discomfort. It's commonplace that when you're in a senior position of power, there are going to be blockers and obstacles, but the more you overcome the more resilient you will feel. Challenges are opportunities not simply problems! Take each one in your stride and focus on one at a time. Adopting a growth mindset helps in seeing challenges as opportunities for personal and professional development.

4. Leadership and Vision

Clarity is kind.

As a leader, it’s important not to shelter your team from bad news but to provide the clarity they need to understand and respond to situations. Being a leader means you are going to have challenging and uncomfortable conversations. But shielding your team from these is often worse for their progression and having clarity when it comes to criticism is often nicer than hiding the truth - no matter how ugly!

Aligning your vision and mission across all levels of your business and setting clear, kind, and transparent communication within teams are effective ways of fostering personal and professional growth.

5. Navigating Stakeholders and Feedback

Making your stakeholder group work for you and your business is essential. Seek advice and support, but ensure the value you're getting and avoid letting reporting become a burden. Developing skills like empathy and emotional intelligence is crucial in managing these relationships effectively.  Some stakeholders are going to be difficult, this is often unavoidable! But being able to handle these stakeholders can define you as a leader. Ensure there are clear communication channels and forums for constructive feedback.

By empowering networks, redefining imposter syndrome, fostering resilience, practising clear and kind leadership, and effectively navigating stakeholder relationships, female founders can thrive in a male-dominated landscape.


We'd like to say a huge thanks to ElizabethLisaGemmaLesleyDavidEleanorHollySiânCharlotte👩‍⚕️ Emma-Louise&Chris for joining us at our recent Female Founders meetup and sharing your experiences as female founders and leaders – lots to take away from the roundtable. Massive thanks to EY for hosting us, to HelenSophia Helen for being a huge help and support in setting this up for us & Laura for co-hosting this initiative. 👏

Charlotte"Like many others, I'm passionate about raising more support and opportunities for female founders and women in tech and whilst this may have been our first roundtable event, we will be hosting plenty more in the near future so please reach out if you want to be involved in our next meet up."

If you are a Female Founder and would like to get involved and share your own insights into life as a Founder, we would love to hear from you! Reach out to Principal Consultant, Charlotte to hear more about how we are supporting our Founder’s network.