Entrepreneurship was once considered a man’s domain, but numbers are now changing. According to 2015 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9 million U.S. firms are now owned by women and they generate total $1.5 trillion in sales.
Although more women are becoming entrepreneurs, they often face a set of challenges not typically shared by their male counterparts. Female CEOs have stated some of the key challenges that they face –
- Confronting social expectations – When women entrepreneurs have to talk business with primarily male executives, it can be unnerving. They may feel as though they need to adopt a stereotypically “male” attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh. But successful female CEOs believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations. Women need not adapt themselves to a man’s idea of what a leader should look like.
- Limited funding – The hardest part of starting a business is raising capital. It gets all the more difficult for women-owned firms. Venture capitalists tend to invest in start-ups run by people of their own “tribe” meaning, venture capital firms with female partners are more likely to invest in women-run start-ups. But, that accounts for only 6% U.S. firms. Women looking for business investors should build confidence through a great team and business plan.
- Own your accomplishments – Women tend to downplay their own worth. When they talk about their company or achievements, they tend to use the word “we” instead of “I”. Using the first person to discuss successes feels, as if they are bragging. They need to have confidence in running a business. It’s important especially when their ideas receive more scrutiny than their male colleagues.
- Building support network – With the majority of the high-level business world still being dominated by men, it can be hard for women to create their own path. Lack of advisor and mentors is one of the major blocks that limits professional growth. They could start networking with other women through groups and forums created specifically for women in business.
- Balancing business and family – Work-life balance is a goal of many entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, but mothers who start businesses have to simultaneously run their families and their companies. And in this area, traditional gender expectations often still prevail. “Mompreneurs” have dual responsibilities to their businesses and to their families, and finding ways to devote time to both is key to truly achieving that elusive work-life balance.
- Coping with a fear of failure – Women need to stop worrying if people will treat them differently in business because of their gender and they also need to stop comparing themselves to others, including men. The bottom line is, if you’re successful, no one cares whether you are man or a woman.