by Dr Priyanka Chadha
The route to business success is not an easy one; requiring dedication, hard work, and a fierce entrepreneurial spirit. Forging this path as women, especially women of Black Asian or Minority Ethnicity (BAME) origin is an even trickier endeavor, but not for lack of the aforementioned qualities. BAME women are grossly underrepresented in higher level positions across many industries and often face socio-economic barriers as well as battle stereotypes – alongside any cultural and/or social discrimination served to them for existing as women. Whilst research into the UK business enterprise is woefully limited in relation to gender and race, it is widely recognized that BAME people are disadvantaged and BAME women even more so. A 2018 study by the Office for National Statistics into ethnicity pay gaps in Britain found that workers of ethnic minority in London earnt 21.7% less than their white peers. The data was not disaggregated to interrogate BAME women stats specifically (yet another example of the ever-prevalent gender data gap) but given what we know about pay inequalities relative to gender – the figures are disheartening.
What are the barriers?
Many women look to build their own businesses as a result of hitting the well documented ‘glass ceiling’. This presents as a lack of opportunity to progress within their career, a gender pay gap, and a sparsity of support and mentorship from their seniors, among other general issues such as the penalization of mothers, less than full time workers, or those with caring responsibilities. These issues are found to be particularly prevalent for BAME women, where disadvantages connected to gender and race intersect to stifle the advancement of their careers and prospects.
However, in practice, conceiving, building, launching and managing a business presents its own set of challenges unique to BAME women. For starters, they are more likely to have difficulty accessing formal financial support and investment. A study by Diversity VC found that 65% of London Venture Capital funds have all-male decision-making teams, with Asian and Black venture capitalists significantly underrepresented. This was proven to directly impact the success of a female founder seeking capital. Additionally, there is a lack of BAME female role models to look up to during childhood and education, and limited provision of mentorship and entrepreneurial guidance focused on the particular social and economic obstacles of BAME women.
Whilst reflecting on the situation makes for bleak reading, all is not lost. Many BAME women are enjoying great success across various industries, including within their own start-up businesses or self-employed enterprises. Rupa Ganatra, co-founder of global event management company Millennial 20/20 speaking at an Asian Business Association Women in Business networking event, advised aspiring entrepreneurs not to be afraid to move out of their comfort zones, and to build their networks before they need them.
Rupal Patel, director and founder of the Orcha Group media agency has spoken of her longstanding passion for entrepreneurship – saying she knew she always wanted to have her own business. Although recognizing the pool of Asian women in business is still small, Patel believes there are opportunities – if you look for them. “There’s a lot of help out there but I have found people just don’t know what support is available to them. A critical factor to increase the number of Asian women entrepreneurs is ensuring this support reaches individuals who would like to have their own business but haven’t yet taken the steps to realize the dream.” She speaks unequivocally on the invaluable role of mentorship for Asian female entrepreneurs, encouraging this be sought early. “There are more people who want to help you than want to hold you back”, she says.
Other general advice for BAME women seeking business success includes ensuring you attend relevant industry events and participate in member organizations, continually invest in your professional development, and ensure the work you are doing adds value to your industry and its growth.
As a top-ranking Plastic Surgery Registrar for the NHS and director and co-founder of a successful aesthetics training academy, I am no stranger to hard work, long hours, and the many sacrifices that come with success. The barriers for BAME women and women in general are very real, but it is imperative we hold a steadfast self-belief and ensure we are ready to take a seat at the table; partaking in the conversation and showing the way for the up-and-coming BAME women entrepreneurs who are waiting in the wings.
Though there is still so much room for improvement, equality between the sexes is moving slowly in the right direction and recent events have shaken the world; sparking a reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement and increasing awareness around systemic and institutional discrimination of BAME people. Acquisition Aesthetics is proud to host an outstanding surgical-led faculty of medical professionals, over 60% of whom are BAME women who also operate their own successful business ventures. We will continue to collaborate with high-calibre professionals who uplift our academy and bring diversity and excellence to our team and the aesthetics realm as a whole and hope to launch an all-inclusive mentoring program in the near future.
By Dr Priyanka Chadha MBBS (Lond), BSc (Hons)’ DPMSA (Lond). MRCS (Eng), MSc (Lond); co-founder and Director of Acquisition Aesthetics.