On the up · 8 March 2019

“The business community is missing a few tricks by overlooking women entrepreneurs”

Hardwood Education founder Melanie Harwood

Business Advice caught up with education specialist and Harwood Education founder Melanie Harwood to find out why she’s setting up a dedicated group for women entrepreneurs and who her own business heroes are.

  1. Who are you and what is your business?

I am Melanie Harwood, an education specialist. I run Harwood Education, which delivers education programmes we have either created ourselves or we have created in joint ventures with others.

  1. What challenges can women expect to face in business?

Challenges?! Gosh, many. It really is a “man’s world” still and I have found that my greatest detractors have been women themselves. I recently attended a meeting with a team of developers to talk about a joint venture I am working on with the United Nations. The only woman in the team sneered at me and said that it was simply not possible for a woman to come up with the concept I was presenting and asked to see the man who devised it all. Needless to say, I did not employ them and will never recommend their firm.

I have many instances where women have belittled my achievements and business ideas but when I have entered a boardroom with a male, they have gushed at how wonderful those very same ideas are. There is a reverse sexism and I have found that some women are the worst culprits of all.

  1. Do you think there are enough women running their own businesses?

There should be far more women running their own businesses! Far more. But they are afraid and there is a lot of pressure on them to conform to an outdated pre-conceived expectation of what a woman should do. We can most certainly run our own businesses, have a family life and enjoy our success.

My husband works with me and supported me fully when I told him eight years ago that I wanted to start my own education business. Not all partners would be that supportive however and not all families would support women should they consider setting up their own enterprise.

  1. What do you think are the advantages of having more women in business?

Women are excellent communicators. We have so many skills that are built in and we are adaptive to change.

  1. How do you handle knockbacks?

I dust myself off and I keep moving forward.

“There is a lot of pressure to conform to an outdated pre-conceived expectation of what a woman should do.”

  1. What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own business?

Go for it. Do as much research as you possibly can. Join a mastermind group with successful women entrepreneurs. Learn from other women in business. Never give up.

  1. What can the business community do to help more women entrepreneurs?

The business community is missing quite a few tricks when it comes to engaging with women entrepreneurs. I am setting up a Tribe of Women Entrepreneurs with two top entrepreneurs. We need more support, more training, more advice and we must give it to each other. We can learn from the mistakes and successes of other women. We can share in discussion and have weekly accountability group sessions.

  1. How do you hope your business to develop in the future?

I know that my business will go from strength to strength. I am developing new sales methods and have been approached by other businesses to promote their programmes/products/subscriptions because they have seen what I am doing within our own systems. The future for Harwood Education looks very exciting.

  1. Who are your business heroes?

I am many business heroes and heroines. My first business hero was my Mum. She was a director of a small family business and she went to do a “Bookkeeping course” so that she could keep an eye on the finances too. She was feisty and driven.

Quickfire…

What are you reading at the moment?

The Ask Method by Ryan Levesque.

Which one song is always on your playlist?

You’re so vain, Carly Simon.

Where was your last holiday?

Toronto.

When are you happiest? 

When I am walking my Great Dane puppy with my elderly mum and my daughter. I love being able to enjoy spending as much time with my family and my close friends as possible and being my own master in business has made that possible.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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