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Exclusive Interview with Ceylan Boyce, Founder of The Academy of Women Entrepreneurs

The year 2020 was focused on #EachForEqual and closing the gender pay gap for women, globally. I sat down with Ceylan Boyce, Founder of The Academy of Women Entrepreneurs, talking about what needs to be done, the role of her AWE company and what gender equality means to her. Now in 2021, conversations around equality is still just as important.  

a woman on the phone at work

Gender equality means social progress. Both men and women have to rally behind this.

  1. Can you tell us a little more about The Academy of Women Entrepreneurs and what they are doing to tackle inequality?

The UN recognises that economic empowerment of women is the direct path to gender equality. There are also a lot of indicators that show that entrepreneurship is a real source of professional and financial fulfilment for women. The problem is, due to a number of reasons, female entrepreneurs are good at keeping the businesses healthy but less strong at scaling them. EU SME commission published reviews on the fact that access to finance, business training and networking were the main barriers to business growth for women business owners.  

As the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, our mission is to make business training, coaching and collaboration accessible, affordable and practical for women entrepreneurs. We believe enabling females business owners with business acumen and surrounding them with like-minded peers and mentors would be a genuine solution to business growth, thus economic empowerment. With this in mind, we also decided to help women entrepreneurs from developing economies. We will be creating free access to a female entrepreneur from a developing economy for each woman business owner who signs up to our platform.  

  1. What is the largest blocker, in your opinion that is stopping us from achieving equality?

 I think, as many social changes, it just takes time. Big steps were made under the feminist movement in the 60’s and 70’s. But then only 10-15 years ago, feminism was almost seen as a “has been” concept. Isabelle Allende has an amazing Ted Talk on it. The thing is gender equality is not just a fight for women, and I think slowly we are getting to a healthier way of seeing things. Gender equality means social progress. Both men and women have to rally behind this. 

 

  1. How can we overcome this blocker?

 As every blocker, it needs to be out there in the public arena. It needs to be discussed without shaming people.  

 

  1. What more do businesses need to be doing to ensure that their business is working towards equal pay?

Is releasing update reports enough? Either open pay or very clear structure of pay and bonus systems per post. Nordic countries are doing it. In Finland, when you have passed a 100K salary, all your income and assets are public knowledge on a government’s website. Do you think that if everything was open, there would be a pay gap?  

  1. You run the EMPOWER workshop series. What role does training and workshops play in achieving growth, development and equality?

 Should companies be investing in training for their female employees? EMPOWER is designed for growth, whether it is entrepreneurial growth or business growth. We touch all aspects of growth, from financial management of it to how to do it and and how to manage a team in a growing company. And yes I believe EMPOWER helps equality in many ways as it empowers women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses. And yes, companies should invest in training of all employees, not just female employees. Let me put this out there: Women do not need more training than men. Men business owners or employees need as much training and coaching as women.  

  

  1. We can’t achieve equality, without focusing on diversity. What are the role of workshops in helping business leaders to understand the needs of different groups of people? 

Our workshops are based on applied learning. In the workshops dedicated to team and company culture, we will be covering all this. There is strong data on how diversity makes business sense and we will be looking into this. Those workshops are going to be live in the second half of the year. 

  1. Is it time to look towards innovation and technology to achieve equality or does this simply complicate things?

I have a more humanist outlook to life and I trust humankind to grow and change and transform the society for better.   

  

  1. What have the role of campaigns such as Times Up and #MeToo played in achieving equality? 

I believe it raised women’s voices around the world and normalised the debate. What once was a taboo became a massive phenomenon. And that is powerful!  

  

  1. What advice would you give to businesses to help develop a more equal workplace? 

Don’t hide behind HR policies. Be genuine about where you are at, and what is missing. Allow discussion and exchange about the topic.  

 

  1. What does equality mean to you?

Human rights.   

 

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