‘Successful women entrepreneurs are not only matching their male counterparts – in several ways, they’re outperforming them,” finds the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report. Researchers also found that about 90 percent of female entrepreneurs expected profits for their companies to increase or remain stable.
Entrepreneurship is no longer only a man’s domain. Women now own more than 9 million companies in the U.S. that employ about 8 million people and generate $1.5 trillion in sales, as per the 2015 data from National Association of Women Business Owners. While women are catching up with their male counterparts, they have to face a number of hurdles.
If you are an aspiring female entrepreneur looking to set up your own business, the following are a few challenges you may face:
1. Acting like the Male Counterparts
Numerous women entrepreneurs think they need to act stereotypically to become successful. In doing so, however, they often become too aggressive and competitive. They even take on too many roles (to prove themselves), which ultimately leads to severe burnout.
Remaining true to yourself is the key to success in the male-dominated business world.
Women should learn to balance things; being too aggressive or lenient can both be harmful. You must understand what it takes to get the work done. Alexandra Pierson, founder and CEO of social media app, Springpop, for example, started out as a lenient boss and was afraid to voice her thoughts and opinions firmly. But eventually, she realized that her endeavors will fail if she refused to become firm and aggressive (when needed). Since then, she no longer minds being considered aggressive.
Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your employees and manage work accordingly. Find your own voice and create new standards at work.
2. Funding Is Often a Challenge
The greatest obstacle that women face when starting and growing their businesses is getting access to funds, especially when it comes to accessing angel and venture capital. Access to capital is important for the success for any small business. But only 7 percent of the venture capital invested money goes to women-owned businesses. Moreover, the loan approval rate for female entrepreneurs is 15 to 20 percent lower compared to the male counterparts. Another survey by National Foundation for Women Business Owners and Wells Fargo & Co. reveals women-owned firms receive only 2 percent of the money invested by venture capital firms.
The strong gender bias may be one reason behind this. Male-run VC firms might not be willing to invest in women-owned businesses. One way to overcome this hurdle is by looking for VC firms with female partners. But there are only a handful of them. The next best way to rise above this problem is by building confidence through a great team and business plan, says Bonnie Crater, President and CEO of Full Circle Insights. Yet another solution is to look for women investors who support one another. For instance, the Hera Fund works towards inspiring and encouraging women investors and support women entrepreneurs as well.
3. Fear of Failure
From a very young age (the fairytale days), women are made to believe that men are their saviors and that they cannot do anything without help from people of the opposite gender. This is the reason why women often give in to the fear of failure.
If you want your business to be successful, understand that failure is inevitable regardless of your gender. Learn from your mistakes and rise above them; do not let them cripple you. “Instead of waiting to get over your fears, recognize them, manage them and grow from those experiences,” says Jennifer Kent, Founder of The Guava Project.
Arianna Huffington got rejected by 36 publishers during the early days of her career and was criticized severely due to her poor command over English (she belonged to a Greek family). She struggled with her marriage and failed to win the Governor’s seat in California (with only 0.55% of the votes against Arnold Schwarzenegger). Despite the negativity, Arianna did not lose courage. In 2005, she founded the ‘Huffington Post’ along with Kenneth Lerer. She also went on to publish 13 books and was enlisted as the 52nd most powerful woman on the Forbes’ 2014 list.
Numerous other women failed severely before becoming massively successful in their lives. Even though women stand to face unique challenges when running their businesses, they should never feel intimidated. When you rise above the odds and become successful, you inspire several other women to take this path.
The business world is no longer only the man’s playground; the tide has turned. Women have slowly started dominating the business landscape and outperforming their male counterparts. Aspiring female entrepreneurs must, therefore, leverage their strengths and rise above their weaknesses to win the race. The challenges are innumerable, but not unsurmountable. Believe in yourself and take a step ahead. Become a role model for other women and empower them to rise above their difficulties as well.