100 Years On From Women Getting The Vote – What Is It Like For Women Working In The Finance And Leasing Industry?

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This month marks an important milestone in women’s rights in the UK.  Legislation granted in February 1918 gave some women in the UK the right to vote and whilst it undoubtedly marked an important beginning of a process, a process it certainly was.

It gave females the right to vote, but only if they were over the age of 30, owned property, were a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, or were a graduate in a university constituency.

It was restrictive, but it did change the face of the electorate dramatically. According to the electoral register at the time, the female proportion shot up to 43 percent despite these limitations. And, perhaps most significantly, it paved the way for the Equal Franchise Act a decade later: an extension of the Act from 1918, which gave all women over the age of 21 the right to vote – property owners or not.

As we celebrate this year’s centenary of the Representation of the People Act I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the role of women in the finance and leasing industry and see if and how he has changed over the years.

When I joined our illustrious industry in 1992 I was a naïve but ambitious 21 year old women hoping to carve myself a niche in a traditionally male orientated arena.

I joined a leasing broker as a junior administrator and worked with my business development colleagues (all male), the directors of the business (all male) and our funding partners (all male other than administrators) to grow our IT finance business.

Within a year or so I was given the opportunity to work in sales out on the road dealing with IT salespeople.  Almost exclusively men.  I had zero experience in sales but as my boss said ‘who would they rather see? A short, fat, balding guy or a young blond woman?!’  Was I offended by this? Certainly not!  Was I nervous?  Certainly!  I was thrown into a male-dominated world with no pre-amble or experience.  However, I was confident I knew my onions having worked in the office for a couple of years.

What I wasn’t wholly prepared for was the reaction of the men I went to see.  Yes, they were happy to see me – that much my boss was right about.  Unfortunately, their expectations were extremely low.  They assumed I didn’t know much – just because I was a woman.   Whilst this might not be fair, rather than complain about the lack of ‘equality’  I made a decision to make sure nothing could be further from the truth.   I relished the opportunity to prove myself in this testosterone-fuelled environment and overdelivered every chance I had.  I very quickly learnt to make the gender difference work for me rather than against me.

Fast forward 26 years and 2 children later and I now co-own a successful business specializing in financing commercial and interior fitout projects.

Of our team of 18 – only 6 are male – and our entire sales team are women.  Not only that, they are all return to work mums who work flexible hours to fit in with their children.  I and they have realized it is possible to be a successful working woman who has a sensible work / family balance.

They are all hugely talented and fantastic at their jobs in the still largely male dominated D & B industry.

Flexible working means they can fulfil their potential as successful business people without compromising the relationship with their children. A win win situation for everyone – including the business.

I’m disappointed that still the vast majority of my peers running similar leasing brokerages are men, but do feel a great solidarity with the few women who are doing the same as me.

So, 100 years on from now what will the leasing landscape be like? More women in key roles?  I certainly hope so.