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Don't waste women's potential

14 September 2012
Don't waste women's potential

Women make the most buying decisions, so bring them into your business,says Mahdis Neghabian, the first woman to be named BII Licensee of the Year

It was at the recent Women 1st conference that I really became aware of the gender gap in our industry. Listening to the speakers at the conference, who included McDonald's UK chief executive Jill McDonald, and the positive steps they encouraged businesses to take, made me realise just how few female senior decision makers there are in our industry.

Mainstream media has focused on the lack of female leaders in the boardrooms of FTSE corporations, but what about women in small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs)? The attitudes and behaviours needed to work in large enterprises are just as relevant to SMEs - perhaps even more so, as you have much more input into the day-to-day running of the business.

I believe that women can make an invaluable contribution to the success and prosperity of SMEs. Why? It is because we not only bring a diverse set of skills that complement and add to those of our male colleagues, but research has shown that, as customers, we also make the majority of purchasing decisions.

Having women in decision-making positions can help businesses develop a unique understanding of their largest customer base. And it is this valuable insight that helped me to transform the fortunes of the Camden Eye.

I took over the running of the pub in 2006. For a pub right in the heart of London's Camden Town, it was vastly underperforming and only just breaking even. If we were going to drive business, we needed to attract a much more diverse client base, which included local residents, families and tourists.

I believe women approach problems from a different perspective. I looked at how the Camden Eye could attract the type of customer that most of us would like to have a drink with. Our diversified client base means we don't rely too heavily on tourists and we attract artists, musicians and local residents - both women and men.

The results speak for themselves. We successfully increased turnover year-on-year by 20%, and this year we are on target to achieve our turnover of £780,000. Next year we should hit the £1m mark.

Women 1st research shows that there are more than 310,000 females leaving our industry each year. That is a shame, as there are plenty of ambitious, talented and brilliant women working in our sector. I am fortunate to have an employer who believed in my vision for the business, but not all women can say the same.

If you are an employer, perhaps now is the right time to reconsider whether you are providing the necessary support to help the talented women you employ to achieve their career aspirations - and yours. The turnaround at the Camden Eye is proof that a different perspective can breathe new life into a business. Can you really afford to lose the potential of half the working population and turn down the opportunity to drive your business forward?

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