Every journey will have different outcomes with unique challenges. If countless case studies have taught us anything, it’s that the entrepreneurial space is not a level playing field. Some entrepreneurs will have it easier. Others still, will have to carve out their own journey and literally pick their business up by its bootstraps.
One success story will be exaggerated so much that the struggles and failures faced along the journey will be diluted to the point that few will catch a wind of it. This is often the case with female entrepreneurs who are often deprived of the same opportunities as their male counterparts. And when any female entrepreneur breaks that glass ceiling, it is celebrated excessively; inevitably creating the illusion that what was essentially an anomaly is the norm.
Statistics released by the National Association of Women Business Owners about the success of female entrepreneurs in the U.S present the brighter side, with nearly 11 million businesses owned entirely by women, contributing a sizable $1.7 trillion to the economy.
These figures throw negative stereotypes about women in business into oblivion, at least on the surface. But when you poke around the thinly veiled disguise of what looks like a world of equal opportunities, it quickly becomes apparent that women entrepreneurs face an entirely different set of challenges, making the already uphill battle even more difficult with each successive stride.
Challenges Faced by Female Entrepreneurs
Overcoming Social Obstacles
Female entrepreneurs are like the new kid on the block who has to prove their mettle. So when they strike up a conversation with male executives in a crowded seminar, it quickly becomes unnerving sight. Some women, to ascertain more dominance and defy negative stereotypes, adopt a more ‘male’ demeanour. You don’t want to appear as a pushover, you want to come across as fiercely competitive and strong; hence, the male demeanour.
The ensuing aggressiveness is laced with cringe-worthy performance, and spectators are left bemused at the awkward woman pretending to be something she’s not. Successful female entrepreneurs, with time and experience, begin to understand that their differences aren’t necessarily to their disadvantage.
Just be yourself and have confidence in your own skills. Don’t conform to society’s expectations of what you should or could be. This is how you rise above the critics.
Not Having Funding
Raising capital isn’t easy. You have to pitch to the right people at the right places and use a careful selection of words. For starters your appearance will speak volumes about your abilities to potential investors, the intonation of your voice can either inspire confidence or pity, and your choice of words can either convince or confuse.
For the female entrepreneur, the odds are multiplied a dozen times over because half the time potential investors are baffled as to whether to be impressed that you made it to where you are or intimidated because of the fact of your gender. The result? A highly skewed distribution of VC capital, in favor of course, of male founders.
According to M&A, a private equity firm, exclusively women teams received only about $1.9 billion in funding of the $85 billion invested by venture capitalists in 2017. This is a staggering gender gap, but one that is closing up, at a snail’s pace. Winning VC confidence is no joke.
The primary reason behind such practices is attributed to the ‘tribe’ mentality. You’re more comfortable to trust people who have the same background as you. Since most venture capitalists are males, they are more likely to trust male-run startups. The same is true for female venture capitalists who normally have more empathy for female-run startups.
There is a silver lining for women though; all you really need to do is win your VC’s confidence by building a great team and backing up your idea with a well-fortified business plan. Here’s a useful advice to raise the necessary capital, that we’ve seen work over the years. Men often exaggerate the real numbers to their potential investors, most of whom catch on to this fact and discount a couple numbers, or indeed zeroes, off the investment.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to give a conservative figure to their VCs who believe that they are operating along the same schemes as their male counterparts. The ensuing discount means lower levels of funds than originally requested. Women will have to understand this important principle and pitch accordingly.
Not Taken Seriously
Women entrepreneurs are in a male-dominated industry that usually downplays their leadership role. Earning the respect of your peers will be a real struggle. People will jump to conclusions that you have wealthy benefactors who supported you along the journey while you were the kid with the silver spoon.
There will always be naysayers in the business who will have their fair bit of skepticism, the trick is to not let the negativity get into your head. The first battle you need to win is the negativity brewing in your own brain. Don’t let society’s lower opinions of your role as a leader bog you down a couple of notches, because that’s the last thing you need in a cluttered business environment.
Communicating Your Achievements to the Audience
It has been observed in the startup space that many women entrepreneurs downplay their success. They simply don’t feel ready yet to acknowledge their own achievements as a leader. Remember that the person with an outside view won’t take you seriously enough if you’re not willing to do the same.
Often times in seminars, pitching sessions and meetings – women fail to communicate their pivotal role effectively. That is not good when you want to win over confidence.
This can be remedied by having more confidence in your own abilities. Back this up with knowledge, experience and a well-crafted business plan, and no one will catch you by surprise ever again.
Not Having a Strong Network
Networking is key, whether you’re working for someone, or working for yourself. You will need access to mentors, advisors and investors. It is important to know all the people at the top and those starting out at the bottom. Knowing the ‘food chain’ helps you get familiar with the ins and outs of the business.
As an all-female led startup, you can find support by attending more female-focused networking seminars and female exclusive online forums. You want to find a network of supporters who share the same vision as you, once you have them, don’t be hesitant to ask what you need to get the job done.
Finding That Work-Life Balance
Your role as a mom and doubling it up as an entrepreneur is not going to be easy. Entrepreneurs need to spend a considerable period of time on their business, and an equal – if not more – attention to your children. Failing to find that work-life balance will take a toll on your personal well being, that’s a fact. The guilt of foregoing the responsibilities of one role will downplay the feeling of success you get by fulfilling the other.
As an entrepreneur, you should find ways to devote enough time to both, making sure they don’t interfere with the other. The good thing is that while society has come to terms with the role of a female boss, it has also allowed them to have more flexibility. That said, you will have more freedom to dictate work hours if you’re working for yourself than somebody else.