Female entrepreneurs continue to face challenges that hinder their growth and success.
6 min read
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Women entrepreneurs represent some of the best business leaders the world has ever seen. Entrepreneurship, once deemed a man’s world, has slowly shifted. Despite the movement, women still encounter challenges.
In the 21st century, women-owned business make up more than 11.6 million firms. They employ more than nine million people and, as of 2017, have generated more than $1.7 trillion in sales. Despite this significant element of corporate influence, 21st-century women still face challenges that stifle and hinder their rise in the corporate world. Women continue to embark upon their quest for business success.
Women are the largest untapped entrepreneurial and leadership potential in the world. Female entrepreneurship continues an upward trend globally. Latest research shows that women’s entrepreneurial activity is up 10 percent, closing the gender gap by 5 percent since 2014.
American Express’ 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report estimates that from 1997 to 2017, the number of women-owned firms increased by a rate of roughly more than 2.5 times the national average (114 percent vs. 44 percent).
Smart companies know that women leaders bring a lot to the table. Women must lead from strengths and personal power rather than feeling compelled to duplicate the male leadership model. Female entrepreneurs must tap into their own emotional intelligence rather than fitting into some template others have created for them.
Women are taking the bull by the horn in the 21st century. Successful businesswomen include Estée Lauder, Oprah Winfrey and Therese Tucker, who broke Silicon Valley’s gender barrier and built a $1.5 billion tech company, Blackline. Despite the progress, female entrepreneurs continue to face challenges that can hinder their growth and impact their business success.
Men have a long way to go as well in terms of understanding the importance of women’s voice and perspective in every facet of business and life. Facebook and Salesforce, for example, are publicly highlighting gender equality and setting a strong example. Globally, Sodexo has 50 percent women on its board and the global executive team has 31 percent women.
Nonetheless, here are five challenges you may find yourself facing and how you can lead from your strengths, stay in alignment with who you and overcome inequities to thrive in entrepreneurial land.
Women need to brag more.
Over centuries women have struggled to celebrate their accomplishments. Having confidence to promote yourself and recognize your achievements without fearing how others perceive you is mandatory.
One of the best ways to grow and build your business is to leverage your accomplishments and translate them into job offers. Bring your unique you to business to lead the way for other women to stand in their own light.
Storytelling is another way that serves as an inspiration and opens networks for women to connect and mentor. Success women entrepreneurs should allow themselves to shine.
Women are prone to undermining themselves and not trusting themselves to succeed. The 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneurship Report found that women are more ambitious and successful than their male counterparts when it comes to business. Catalyst found that companies with the highest representation of women in top management consistently experienced better financial performance than the group of companies with the lowest.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has known to refer to women needing to close the confidence gap and to break through the self-doubt to allow their light to shine. Women, reclaim the parts of you that are depriving you of your success.
Humility versus self-importance.
Wharton Business School professor Ethan Mollick co-authored a paper on female entrepreneurship claiming that women are defined by humility, and men by hubris. If something goes wrong, women are likely to attribute error to themselves, while men blame outside forces or luck. When something goes right, women attribute it to luck while men see it as a confirmation of their abilities. Women need a mindset shift to reframe mistakes or errors as feedback and an opportunity to grow.
Harmonizing business and family.
Women entrepreneurs so often find themselves torn between the commitment to the family and business. Women lay the building blocks on which the family foundation is built. Women have worn many hats and been indoctrinated into a culture that expects them to fulfil a variety of roles always. All areas of life expand and contract depending on where your energy is invested. Hard work, sacrifice and resolve are the keys to harmonizing the areas in your life. Even more than that, no woman should feel obligated to be Wonder Woman. Create realistic expectation and make peace with the fact that no one must do it all.
Raise the standard.
Women underestimate what they can accomplish. Many women start businesses with a hobby mindset — the intention to make some extra money without taking much risk. If you have bigger dreams, gaining clarity on your vision and long-term goals is imperative to reverse engineering how you will get there. Build a support network around you, celebrate progress toward the goals and continue to stretch and expand your thinking.
Related: How to Build a Support Network
Show me the money.
Women continued to be challenged more so than men when it comes to securing funding. Understanding the Landscape: Access to Capital by High-Growth Women-Owned Businesses, research commissioned by the National Women’s Business Council, recently released that female entrepreneurs start companies with 50 percent less capital than male entrepreneurs.
Venture capitalists tend to invest in men for their potential, but women are judged by their current performance. Harvard Business Review recently published that female founders highlighting social impact of their ventures leads to more positive perceptions and more likely to get funding. When you do look for funding be ready to explain clearly what you want your company to look like in five years, how your mission will change the landscape of its industry and the revenue potential.
Confidence makes the difference, especially when you discuss your numbers. Secure money based on what you can get rather than what you need. You don’t want to limit your potential for growth in the future.
Women are inspiring the world to shape the future of global business. For centuries women have faced unique challenges in business, some small speed bumps and fear-driven mindsets that threaten business success, but if you embrace your business with an entrepreneurial spirit, you have the power to be the predominant creative force.