For Nancy Bigley, a female leader who has been in the franchise industry for the past 25 years, changes in the number of women in the industry are evident as she looks back on the past decades.
“When I first entered into franchising, I would see husband and wife business partner but very few women-only owners,” said Bigley. “I have definitely seen an increase in individual female franchisees since the start of my career.”
Bigley, who is chair of the IFA’s Women’s Franchise Committee, attributes the changes to several reasons, including the evolution of new and innovative industries like her own, Bottle & Bottega. She added that these businesses, such as lash extension companies, blow dry boutiques and more, are more appealing to women and give them the confidence they need to take risks—that’s because, oftentimes, they can better identify with them.
In the spring of 2016, Bigley was elected as the Chair of the Women’s Franchise Committee, which operates with the mission to “empower leaders in franchising by promoting women’s participation in the industry and provide international networking opportunities for the exchange of ideas, resources, and experiences.”
The committee hosts a leadership conference every year at the IFA Convention, which asks speakers to be raw and real about their business experiences to help others become better and stronger leaders and to build a network to turn to when needed. The committee also carries the message forward at the local level with the Women’s Franchise Network meetings. There are 20 chapters across the country where groups focus on bringing wisdom and leadership to female franchisees, franchisors and suppliers throughout the year.
All of these efforts are created with the goal of helping women in the industry overcome challenges and find success, which Bigley said she feels is more of a franchising-wide issue versus women’s issue.
“I actually feel franchising is a better vehicle for women who want to own their own business,” Bigley said. “It allows them to be a part of a community of like-minded business owners, share ideas and collaborate. These are all things women do fairly naturally.”
Bigley added that she hopes the organization will continue to ensure women are being considered for a seat at the table along with their male counterparts – something she didn’t see as much of 25 years ago when she entered the industry.
And as far as the future for women in franchising is concerned, Bigley has a positive outlook.
“Women are strong, resilient, results driven, collaborative, empathetic and kick ass leaders – all traits needed to run companies and be successful,” Bigley said. “Our confidence is growing; our network is expanding and opportunities are available. We just need to have the confidence to seize them. I only see even more amazing opportunities in the future and I couldn’t be more thrilled.