More and more women are becoming entrepreneurs. In greater numbers than ever before, women are stepping away from traditional economic roles and venturing out to start their own businesses.
In industrialized countries, manufacturing is in decline, but the service industry is rapidly on the rise. With new technology and communication tools, the old way of doing things is becoming obsolete and women are taking advantage of new opportunities. Changing values and attitudes toward paid work has also encouraged some financially secure women to seek self-realization outside working for big firms.
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Li Zhou writes, “…women are conducting business on their own terms, by circumventing the barriers present in existing systems. For some, starting their own companies is the only alternative to hitting the glass ceiling at their current jobs.”
Women are becoming a driving force in economic growth around the world.
From owning hair salons to venture capital firms and everything in between, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. increased 44 percent from 2001 to 2011, says the Center for Women’s Business Research. Women are becoming a driving force in economic growth around the world.
But new opportunities create new challenges. There are successful female entrepreneurs throughout the world, but male entrepreneurs continue to receive better media coverage, visibility and access to funding. From my own experience and that of those around me, I’ve jotted down some thoughts on what I think are challenges facing female entrepreneurs:
1. We are afraid to recognize ourselves as business owners
Instead of waiting to get over my fears, I have figured out how to recognize them, manage them and grow from those experiences. Treat yourself as a business owner so others treat you the same way. Stop waiting for permission or recognition from others in order to feel entitled to your success. Only you can award yourself the right to earn success for your career or business.
2. We expect to succeed at everything
In general, men are judged by how well they do in their careers, while women are judged by how well we excel with our children, our bodies, our spouses and our careers. It’s a struggle to find enough time in the day to focus on them all! The advice that I go by is to know that I can’t do it all. It’s best to try to figure out what is important to you, set goals and put a plan in place to reach them. What does success look like to you? After all, that’s why we become entrepreneurs in the first place ─ to define our own terms.
3. We forget to ask for what we want
Women tend to place a high premium on building up relationships that they hope will naturally lead to sales. Connections are highly important to success, and nurturing strong professional relationships can go a long way. However, as female entrepreneurs, we tend to shy away from directly asking for our bottom line. I definitely fall into this category. Men’s first instincts are often to address revenue figures and conversions ratios. We too must also be direct and stay focused on our business goals. We shouldn’t be afraid to meet our financial goals head on. The word “money” isn’t a bad thing and addressing it up front doesn’t make us shallow. It allows us to be taken seriously. By better organizing our invoicing systems, tracking our time, and getting into good accounting practices, we let our clients know that we mean business.
4. We have to balance raising families with running our businesses
Work-life balance is often a goal of female entrepreneurs. But mothers who start businesses have to simultaneously run their families and their companies. Although I don’t yet have children of my own, I know that being a mother while running my business will be very challenging. From the experts, I’ve learned that co-scheduling with your partner, sharing parental duties with other parents and tapping into a support system are all different tactics that should be explored with juggling your family and business responsibilities. Mothers who are also entrepreneurs admit they face numerous challenges in running a business and balancing their family life. But it’s encouraging for me to see that those challenges are not stopping them from jumping into entrepreneurship.
5. We don’t get equal access to funding
Women face greater obstacles than men when starting and growing businesses, especially when it comes to receiving angel and venture capital. Men tend to fund people who look and sound just like them. Female entrepreneurs should seek advice from a variety of sources, including co-founders, professional advisers, accountants and lawyers in order to put themselves on the best path to receive the funding needed to grow their businesses.
When we are the ones determining our own work environment and culture, we are putting ourselves on the path to achieve optimal work-life balance.
When we are the ones determining our own work environment and culture, I believe we are putting ourselves on the path to achieve optimal work-life balance. As women, if we can find our inner self-confidence, embrace our passion and harness our collaborative leadership style, we can continue to provide future economic growth. Both directly through the business that we establish and those we employ, and indirectly through the philanthropic investments and contributions that we make.
Photo via WOC in Tech