Women In A Mans World


In the male dominated franchise industry where more than double the number of businesses are owned by men and those that are run by women tend to be in traditional female sectors such as aged care, cleaning, travel, real estate, accounting and catering, things are slowly starting to change.



The era of women being simply the wife of the owner and in charge of the books does seem to be well and truly over, as many franchise businesses are realising the benefits of having females in leadership roles regardless of the sector they operate in.


For many years women have been pigeon-holed into admin or supporting roles which Sharon Marie Jurd, co-owner of HydroKleen believes is because women “naturally tend to be more reserved and taking risks, such as building a franchise, is a big deal that takes a commitment which women are often unable to sustain”. 


Sharon knows it all depends on the life stage and this is why more couples tend to get into franchise businesses together, so that women can support their partners in business while also bringing up a family.


Sharon didn’t choose to get into franchising. She was considering retirement after selling her real estate agencies when her husband John went into business with a partner and she could see the growth potential of the franchise model and how she could contribute in a positive way so she bought the partner out and joined in.

Sharon went on to become Queensland Women in Franchising and Australian Franchise Women Of The Year in 2014 and wrote the book, Extraordinary Women In Franchising, in 2015 to inspire other women to get involved.


Over the years Sharon says there have been plenty of situations where she and John are seen together and the assumption is that she does the books, with people asking John questions about business and ignoring her. After a while they decided that in these instances John would stay silent and Sharon would answer the question in order to bring awareness that women aren’t just wallflowers they participate massively in the business.


Business has changed a lot since then and more women are beginning to take the reins as leaders in franchise businesses operating in male domains.

Sonya Watson started working at Century Yuasa Batteries 10 years ago as Credit Analyst and moved across to Battery World in November 2021. This year Sonya has finished a Bachelor in business whilst working full time and juggling a family. She says that being a woman in a man’s world is “rewarding and challenging at the same time” and that there are times where being female “works for you or absolutely works against you”.

She believes that women have a different way of thinking and they tend to behave with more empathy. Sonya feels that better communication and the ability to see it from both sides is a huge benefit but that women still get typecast into roles and often get overlooked with less opportunities to improve their skills.


A self-confessed tomboy, Sonya owns a Harley Davidson 883 Superlow and grew up climbing trees and helping her Dad fix cars and change tyres. She has great memories of the times she spent tinkering, “we would often be in the shed all weekend” and knows that this has not only given her key skills but also the confidence to never let being a girl stop her from doing anything.


Her organisational skills have come from being a working mum with the natural ability to juggle and the need to be super organised with good time management and a strong focus on setting priorities, all benefits to business.

She believes however, that the franchise industry could do better with a paradigm shift to look past skills and qualifications to find staff who are a better fit with the brand and the customers regardless of their gender.


Gemma Bemrose, Co-Owner of Ultra Tune on the Central NSW Coast agrees that the franchise business culture needs to change and that women play a vital role in this respect.


Gemma and her husband are equal partners in the business with his qualifications as a mechanic and her ability to bankroll and run the business with the management and communication experience needed to provide a valuable service to the community.


They jumped at an opportunity to buy the business off another franchisee in October 2021 knowing they had the right combined skill set required. “He has the mechanical skills and I have the business and customer skills, so we went with our gut instinct and jumped into business together.”


From the start Gemma’s goal has been to build loyalty with a trusted brand promise that locals can rely on. Within one month the store regained its AAA+ Ultra Tune rating and it is now within the top 20 out of 70 stores in NSW.


Although Gemma deals with lots of male customers and suppliers and has had to learn coping strategies to maintain politeness and deal with chauvinists she says the men in her business have learned about women in the workplace because they see the difference when they don’t get treated the way she does.


Far from being the receptionist, Gemma says that she and her husband have clearly defined roles and trust each other’s ability to do well as long as they stay in their lanes. She knew when they bought the business that they needed to have an owner’s mindset, “it is like buying a job but we are equal partners and I never elected to simply be the franchisee wife, doing the books and taking in morning tea”.


And what does Gemma feel about the Ultra Tune advertising campaigns with their overtly sexist messaging?


She admits that she wasn’t even aware of them when they bought the business and that she doesn’t have a marketing degree but knows it’s common sense to have adverts that stand out, however, with a community where women make the lion’s share of household decisions and spending, connecting with them is possibly a better option.


From a customer service point of view, having great communicators in the business is vital and she agrees that women often have natural talents in this area that are undervalued by business. “Most of our clients are wives and mums and they often mention me in their reviews and come back and trust us because they are dealing with me” Gemma says.


It’s not always plain sailing dealing with female customers though. “Often female customers are worse than males” she says, “Women often patronise me and ask to speak to the boss that they talked to on the phone, not realising that it is the apprentice they spoke to and that I am the owner.”


So perhaps it is more than just franchise business that tends to embrace change and value the role women have to play in business. Perhaps our entire idea about women’s roles in leadership needs to be challenged and women need to change too.


When Sharon Marie Jurd won her award and gave an acceptance speech, she included that women need to bring their femininity to the boardroom. “Women try to be the man in business” she says and instead she believes they need to know “they are invited to be at the table because of their expertise and vision, not to fit in and be dominant.”


Sonya also added that finance holds women back from business ownership roles, explaining that ”when you are of child bearing age the banks don’t take women seriously and it’s almost impossible to get started”. She is pleased that Battery World offers lots of support for women and is accepting of everyone’s situations.


As for the future of franchising Sonya says women are the quiet achievers and that more effort needs to be made to recognise achievements and show the women being promoted and rewarded. Sharon added that that “women don’t toot their horn” enough and there are “a lot of successful women we don’t know about because they don’t stand up or stand out”.


Sharon believes that women should be at the forefront of new business models and are natural leaders in creating new services, products and new ways of thinking. “Women don’t tend to say ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ they say, ‘how can we do it differently’ she says, adding that “women change and adapt naturally and have the empowerment to deal with uncertainty easily and that’s a superpower that could be harnessed by the industry.”


Gemma says “It’s not about men or women, it’s about valuing skill sets” and that “you reap what you sow in business, regardless of your gender”. 


Sonya encourages women to get involved in ownership and leadership roles and women considering leading franchise businesses should just “be in yourself and go for it, you are more than capable”.


Franchising might still be a man’s world but women are stepping up and walking into leadership roles in growing numbers and as good communication is vital for quality customer service, this can only be good for business.




Lauren Clemett

Lauren Clemett is a Keynote speaker, International award-winning Neurobranding specialist and best selling author with over 25 years brand management experience. Lauren shares how to overcome overwhelm and lead with direction, purpose and meaning, making marketing your professional services a walk in the park!