The Future of Franchising Is Female
At our recent company-wide conference, the ratio of male-to-female franchise partners was obvious: women are under-represented in our system. It’s not that we’re surprised, but it’s an interesting dichotomy: the majority of franchise owners are men and yet our primary customers are women. Women tend to be the decision-makers when it comes to home service purchases, but they don’t seem to want to get into the business themselves.
We believe that anyone with passion and skill can start a business in any industry. A franchise opportunity is for anyone who wants the freedom and flexibility of business ownership — whether it’s to spend more time with family, travel more, or take control of your own schedule. It begs the question: how can we make women more aware of the opportunities available in our business?
Women Are Fighting an Uphill Battle
Unfortunately, the gender gap conversation isn’t new and it reaches far beyond the home services industry: women hold just 20 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies, only 10 percent of the world’s nations currently have a female leader, and only 6 percent of S&P 500 companies have a female CEO. The business world is so male-dominated and that’s always been the norm, but it doesn’t have to be.
We have 247 franchises in our system, across four brands. The number of women franchise partners? 18. This imbalance is typical for people looking for careers in what are sometimes called “dirty” service industries, like the ones we provide. But that doesn’t mean men are more likely to be successful in our system — far from it.
Our female-lead franchises are among the top performers. In fact, they are disproportionately more successful than the men. Part of their strength is that they can relate to our customers — who are primarily women — in a different way than our male franchise partners. They bring a unique perspective to historically male-driven industries that we never would have had otherwise. The number of women franchise partners in our system may be small, but they are mighty.
It’s Time to Balance the Scales
Increasingly, studies prove that women make powerful leaders; in some cases, they even outrank men for typically “male” strengths like taking initiative and driving results. Research also shows that female entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful. But despite their competency, women have a harder time both climbing the ladder and starting their own businesses.
Perspectives are changing: last year, for the first time on record, Americans reported they don’t prefer men as leaders over women — it was 50/50. Women scored higher in 13 of the 16 core leadership competencies. There’s still a long way to go to close the gap, but it’s encouraging to know society is adopting a more balanced mindset.
Of our female-owned franchises, many of them are run by one woman alone. Some are co-lead by two partners — often husbands and wives teaming up to build their future together. From what we’ve seen, this co-leadership model has given our franchise partners a strong foundation to grow exceptional businesses. It’s not surprising, considering gender-diverse companies have a 15 percent leg up over industry standard. A balanced team brings different strengths to the table and they can leverage the expertise of two equally talented people.
Everyone Has Equal Opportunity to Start a Business
Our industries are male-dominated by nature but that is changing. Our company hasn’t grown around a male-dominated culture: at head office, we have a near-even split between women and men. The most important thing to us is simply to have happy people in our organization, regardless of gender or otherwise.
We recognize that not everyone (men and women alike) want to get their hands dirty in tough service jobs. But women have the same opportunity in our industries as men, if they want it. The industry doesn’t make the entrepreneur — it’s about having vision and the determination to build something exceptional that you can call your own.
A lot of progress has been made on equality. I hope one day we don’t need to differentiate between “male” and “female” entrepreneurs. The world is male-dominated enough. Entrepreneurship can help lead the change.
Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E (Ordinary to Exceptional) Brands. This article first appeared on Forbes.com