Ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day and its #BalanceforBetter campaign, Denise Friend, founder of Chartered Accountancy firm Friend Partnership, reveals some of the initial findings of the firm’s ground-breaking research ‘Women in Business – can we truly have it all?’.

Women have spent almost half a century campaigning and fighting for legislation, promotion and recognition in the workplace, yet still face significant challenges and hurdles in their working lives.

According to recent figures, the proportion of senior roles held by women in the UK is slightly below the global average (24%) at 22%. And although around a third of UK businesses are female-led, just 9% of funding* for UK start-ups goes to female-run businesses each year.

Add to these challenges the expectation for women in business to balance a career, family, social life and personal interests, the question is can women in business truly ‘have it all’?

Our research set out to uncover whether women can, by investigating if and how the landscape for working women has changed over recent generations, the sentiment of today’s female employees and female employers, the types of challenges women in business face, along with their successes and sacrifices made along the way.

Run in partnership with Birmingham’s King Edward’s High School for Girls, with support from former head and educational commentator Sarah Evans, participants in the survey spanned a range of age-groups, professions and industries, from business owners, the self-employed, to senior and middle management employees, and retirees.

Early analysis of the survey has revealed some interesting statistics and insights.

For example, more than 80% of women say fulfilling a senior role on a part-time basis is a challenge.

60% say they believe that businesses must offer flexible working conditions to attract high-performing women, but for the 90% of SMEs that are offering flexible working, 80% say this presents a real challenge for their day to day operations.

Encouragingly, our research reveals that two thirds of women (68%) believe the working environment for women has improved since their career began.

Furthermore, more than half of women say their careers have progressed at about the pace they expected when they first began their working lives, but a third of the 62% of respondents with children, and the 30% aged between 30 and 40, admit their career has progressed at a slower rate than they had expected.

When it comes to the biggest hurdles facing ambitious women, our survey reveals that for many they have had to choose a career over having children. Further common hurdles are self-limiting beliefs, imposter syndrome, not being taken seriously by work colleagues and peers, and balancing family with a career.

Around half of respondents say they have had to make sacrifices in order to balance work and personal lives, with maintaining a social life, time with the family, career progression, and arts and cultural activities making up the top four barriers.

Event will reveal the full findings

The survey’s findings will be unveiled in full at a reception event at King Edward’s High School for Girls, Birmingham, on the 15th May, where a number of the women in business who have taken part in the research will share their stories, in a bid to show that balance drives a better working world, and their views on areas where employers can improve.

The survey garnered interest and support from a number of national and Midlands organisations including Michael Page, NatWest, and the All Party & Parliamentary Group for Women in Work, with close-on 1000 respondents taking part.

For each completed response to the survey, Friend Partnership made a donation to Birmingham Children’s Hospital to commemorate the work of the late Dr Stuart Green, former head of the paediatric neurology department at the hospital.

International Women’s Day 2019 is on 8th March – for more information: www.internationalwomensday.com

*Source: The Entrepreneurs Network