Behind many of these businesses are leaders and changemakers who are dedicated to cultivating an inclusive workplace.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the women behind just a few of our lending and crowdfunding customers, and gain insights on how they think businesses can take action to champion equality.

Read on to hear about their challenges and triumphs, learn how they are paving the way for a more equitable society, and discover their top piece of advice for women in business.

Dr Barbara Hammond MBE, CEO and Founder of Low Carbon Hub

It sounds simple to say that I am the “Founder and CEO” of Low Carbon Hub, but the journey to get there wasn’t so easy. It was a long, long process of learning, searching and hard work to build an engine for change that is going to be around for the whole of the transition to a zero-carbon energy system.

One piece of advice I’d give to women in business would be ‘ask forgiveness not permission’ – be bold, demanding and, if possible, backed up by an amazing life partner who has your back and keeps you confident through thick and thin.

I believe we can collectively forge a more inclusive world for women by putting a ladder down to the women following behind you.

Caroline Seton, Co-founder of Forest

I am a mother of three small children and love the balance of working and raising a family. However, I believe that there is so much to be done to forge a more inclusive world for women. One aspect to be considered more is how we can further evolve men’s role in the home to create space and opportunity for women to invest more of their time into their own careers.

Did you know that 71% of mothers in the UK are in paid employment and that they do 65% of the physical housework? In some dynamics, women perform far more cognitive and emotional labour than men. We therefore need to rethink cultural norms and gendered patterns to create a more inclusive workplace for women.

Jo Lea-Jones, Central Services Director of 1625 Independent People

I’m inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s words on feminism: I want women to have the confidence to believe in themselves. Step outside your comfort zone, take on new challenges – learning is key to personal growth.

Reflecting on my own business journey, I have dared to believe in myself, to banish any voices that create self-doubt and self-limitation. Using the friendship and working relationships forged with other women in business, you can create a network of support which can be unwavering in their celebration of your achievements.

Laura Crawford, CEO of Mama Bamboo

I waited until my youngest was three before I really launched Mama Bamboo. Since then, the business has grown, but we’ve managed to grow in line with a core value regarding family flexibility. All employees work part time with flexible work arrangements.

My advice, not for just women, but for all parents: manage your expectations and perspective on what's really important.  Running a business and being a hands-on parent is not for the faint hearted!

The greatest tip I can share is having the humility to recognise that unless you’re a brain surgeon, your work often isn’t life or death; deadlines can move, meetings can be rescheduled. Making time for the kids is sometimes more important. I used to run myself ragged meeting everyone’s expectations and never letting anyone down and felt like my work was of ultimate importance. As time has gone on, I’ve realised that sometimes asking people for an extra day to finish something off because your child was ill or wants you to play, is actually ok.

I also think there's a real issue in our society today between the drive to include women in the workplace and the childcare provision on offer. It's simply never going to lead to full equality whilst women are the primary child carers, but the gap between a full time workload and childcare provision is so great.

Stephanie Wheen, CEO and Founder of Gympanzees

Founding Gympanzees has been an incredible journey since the initial idea in 2016. From the very start I have had huge support from an incredible team of staff, volunteers, trustees, advisors, fundraisers, companies, funders, and cheerleaders who have been completely integral to our success.

What I have learned from this experience is that no one has all the answers so surround yourself with people who know more than you. You can bypass a lot of mistakes, time and money by learning from people who have done it before you and you would be surprised how happy people are to pass on their advice and experience.

There are some brilliant things going on to move towards a more inclusive working world for women - but there is still a long way to go! For example, women need support through maternity which is essential for society and inclusion. But is there a way the partner’s company (or government in the case of single mothers) can help the primary child carer’s company with this support?

Audrey Carlin, CEO of The Wasps Trust

My advice to women is to never underestimate the power of partnership – so much more can be achieved by working with others!

Women have typically demonstrated a much greater capacity for inclusion in the workplace. Let’s translate that to the wider world by displaying more empathy, pragmatism and fairness in how we run our businesses and engage with the world around us.