We should honour the plain Janes of business

When it comes to celebrating female entrepreneurs, we celebrate looks more than anything else.

Flick through a ladies' magazine and you'd think feminism never happened. And I don't mean because of the endless features about make up and fashion. I mean because of the articles about female entrepreneurs.

Take the piece in last weekend's You magazine. "They say that when the going gets tough the tough get going" announces the headline. It then goes on to tell us the story of a group of (weirdly good-looking) women who have "launched new business ventures and made brilliant successes of them."

But what are these businesses? Well there's a cupcake company, a children's clothes company, a line of natural skincare products for mothers and babies, a "professional gifting company", and an accessories company (bags and jewellery). Out of the lot there is only one business that doesn't fit into the 'lady business' stereotype an online DIY website-design service (wizz-it.com).

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There is nothing wrong with any of these businesses, and I dare say their founders work very hard to keep them going. Some of them might even survive. But it often seems that, when it comes to celebrating female entrepreneurs in print, we celebrate looks more than anything else.

Knickers and sweet treats are all very well, but where are the businesses that will really drive the UK economy forward? The software developers, the biotech entrepreneurs, the publishers, the solar power geniuses and so on

They must be out there (I hope) and, even if their female founders don't fit into the same size clothes as their more glamourous sisters, the likes of You should surely be celebrating them too.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.