Home Who we are What we do What we sell

The trouble with motherhood

I was talking to a colleague the other day about the challenges that women in business face.

The conversation eventually got round to the point that while many senior businesswomen often face a tough time juggling the demands of work and motherhood (however much we may try to convince ourselves otherwise, in the majority of cases women still take on the majority of childcare responsibilities), when they get into influential positions where they can do something about it, they often don’t.

We’ve all heard the Ruth Leas of this world complain about over-generous maternity leave and some female SME owners will openly admit that they won’t employ women of childbearing age.

The question is, do women who run businesses have a duty to try to actively change these attitudes from the inside? If they don’t lead by example, who will?

There are good reasons why employers need to help their female employees tackle the challenges of work and motherhood:

• Female employees give organisations an insight into the perspective of potential female consumers, who have a lot of spending power.

• More and more academic research is showing that female leadership skills are more conducive to today’s global business environment, which requires buy-in, diplomacy, consensus, understanding and relationship-building.

• We’re facing a pensions crisis. The number of pensioners is increasing while the size of the workforce, which is funding their pensions, is decreasing. Would more women have had more children if it weren’t so difficult to work and be a mother? (Simplistic, I know, but it’s worth thinking about.)

• Falls in birth rates mean we’re squeezing our talent pool, robbing employers of the opportunity to get the best person for the job.

There are plenty of other reasons. Isn’t it time that ALL businesses stopped seeing parenthood less as a problem and more as an opportunity? Senior businesswomen can do much to make that happen.

Bridging the university-business gap

The latest issue of Business Voice carries a feature on the UK’s poor track record at taking innovative ideas from our university labs to market and making them a commercial success.

The UK National Biomanufacturing Centre, which opens on Merseyside early this year, is one initiative that’s trying to bridge the gap.

The centre is designed to help small biotech companies emerging from universities develop their products to a stage where they are ready for clinical trials, which is when the big drugs companies get interested.

The centre’s business development director Derek Ellison told BV the Centre was the first of its kind anywhere in the world and had already attracted interest from other countries.

It’s worth noting that Eden Biodesign, the company chosen to operate the £34m centre, had to go to an Arkansas-based investment bank for backing because it couldn’t find a UK backer.

The biotech industry has the potential to make serious amounts of money. In 2004, sales reached $40bn but most of that money went to the US.

Worryingly, Ellison says US investors are coming to Europe to look for potentially lucrative start-ups while European start-ups are moving to the US where the investment climate is more favourable.

Will the US have the biotech market – and all the innovation know-how it brings with it - cornered before the UK even gets off the ground?

Simon Davey, CEO of Cambridge-based company The Generics Group, also makes an interesting point.

He believes the UK needs a “mezzanine” of organisations geared specifically towards bridging the university-business gap and speeding up the time it takes to get an innovative idea to market.

He reckons we’ve got five to ten years to get our act together or be “wiped out by China”. And here’s why.

Davey says: “China wants to build its economy around manufacturing. As soon as you do that you have engineering that supports manufacturing and then product development. Eventually you will have an express train of development coming out of China.”


Feeds etc