Petra Wetzel: Diversity drives business, the economy and societ

There is still a shortage of women running their own companies
There is still a shortage of women running their own companies

On a recent family stroll through leafy suburbia, two of the great truths in life were uttered by a middle aged couple in front of us.

On exiting a shop, the wife exclaimed “That was quick!”. The husband replied “You have all the money!”

My husband, son and I exchanged glances, burst out laughing, and agreed that those two phrases have been uttered in many languages, across geographies and cultures for millennia.

Even at 11 years old, Noah, while hopefully not being 100 per cent clear on what amused us about the wife’s comment, was certainly quick to concur on the second.

These comments led to an interesting conversation over coffee. A discussion on where power lies, who really controls the finances of a family, and why this differs from family life to the business world.

Our household crosses the business spectrum. My husband, a corporate something or other, and me the business-owning entrepreneur.

As educated professionals we believe in democracy, and in our house who is in control is never an issue. My husband is educated, so he fully understands that I am in control and our discussions on what to do and when are often meaningless, because I have already decided prior to starting the conversation. But the discussions make him feel better, so let’s pretend, right?

Beyond that, the question I continually challenge myself and society with is this: “If women can, do and – let’s face it – have for generations run successful households, and if men, can, do and have let women run households for generations, why is it that so few women run successful businesses or organisations and some men feel threatened by women doing so?”

Life has changed for me over the last 11 years. My business, WEST, has gone from strength to strength. Hard work, personal sacrifice and good luck have all played a part. However, what dismays me is that, after 11 years, I am still disappointed when I attend business functions with the lack of female participation.

Over the years people have called me a feminist. This I have always railed against: feminism, like most isms, makes no sense. I believe in equal opportunities but, more passionately, I believe in the diversity of thought that comes from a diverse business community.

This diversity drives business, the economy and society forward. When the business community all looks the same then ‘group think’ takes over and innovation stops.

To quantify, currently if women started businesses at the same rate as me, the Scottish economy would grow by £7.6bn, yes ‘Billion’ with a ‘B’. This growth is good for all, it’s an opportunity to position Scotland for the future.

I believe all things are possible with a good idea, hard work and a smattering of luck. That is why in 2016 I put my money where my mouth is and started the WEST Women fund. The fund was established to give female-owned companies financial support and business mentoring across Scotland. The fund enables women to take their dreams to development, turn concepts to careers and flip ideas to IPOs.

That’s not feminism – that’s just good business.

Petra Wetzel is CEO of WEST Beer, Glasgow