What kind of issues do women face when starting a business?
Alternative name: Being a female entrepreneur in 2016 and the challenges that come with it
No one can doubt that women have made great steps in the business world. There never have been more women-owned businesses and female CEOs at any point in world history than right now. Nowadays, women can more easily find inspiration about entrepreneurship and launching a business by looking up to such thought leaders as Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo CEO), Ursula Burns (Xerox CEO) and Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo!).
Even though, there has been great change affected in the business world. Women still generally have a tougher climb to the top when it comes to starting and owning their own businesses.
Here are some of the common issues that are still faced by women entrepreneurs:
1: “Is this a ‘real business’ or ‘just a nice little hobby’?
One of the most encountered problems that women have to face when starting their own businesses has to do with being taken seriously. Lily Rice, a founder and designer of women’s sportswear brand ‘Lexie’ shared one of her many encounters on her way to success in Virgin’s ‘women of business’ series. She states: “My favourite personal episode was visiting a prospective accountant…He wanted to check if I owned a ‘real business’ or was this ‘just a nice little hobby’. One short mention of my rather serious (and albeit male) investor and suddenly I was offered a meeting with the owners of the firm. And this isn’t a one-time thing. “
Being taken seriously by other business owners, clients and investors is something very crucial for the development and growth of a company. While gender should not play a factor in it in any shape or form, the stereotype perpetuates with many. Being armed with a business plan, a list of your resources, and presenting as professionally as possible will diminish the stereotype as an impediment in achieving your dreams.
2: “Yes, I did achieve this!”
Even though women have shown throughout the years that they are just as capable of performing at high levels as men are, credibility is still an issue that is often faced by female entrepreneurs. Having to prove your knowledge, qualities, and achievements is not something frowned upon or foreign to men; however when you are being treated with distrust and scrutiny based on your gender, things become slightly different.
Jessica Richman, co-founder and CEO of uBiome, a platform for microbiome sequencing, – spoke out about the issues she faced with origin and financing for her company during a recent post for FastCompany. Richman advises women to “lead with the credentials you have, whether that’s an undergrad in a relevant field, domain experience, a high-powered MBA, or whatever…You don’t have to be defensive or have a chip on your shoulder, but I think you need to disarm those assumptions up front.”
Therefore, being able to defend yourself and stand by your achievements shows the confidence and strength that some people do not expect of women in business. That is a great way to convince people in your abilities.
3: Age: Does it matter for men nearly as much as it does for women?
Being a young entrepreneur is inevitably difficult. However, the common view of men in their 20s opening up businesses and starting their careers quickly after college do not align with those about women. Men are often seen as courageous, brave and hardworking for wanting to run and own a business early on in their careers, which is in no way something which should change! However, women are often seen as immature, inexperienced and naive for believing they could start a successful company on their own. As a result, raising capital may become much more difficult and investors tend to overlook the potentially great and profitable ideas that young women may have.
Mada Seghete, co-founder of developer tool Branch Metrics, who successfully raised more than $3 million advises young women in her interview for FastCompany not to focus on the fact that they are female. She says “”I have watched guys and girls pitch in my classes at business school, at launch competitions, and startup weekends and most times the guys are more confident when they pitch. I think if we solved the confidence issue and start believing that we are no different, our chances of raising money will become just the same. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
As a result, confidence and a firm belief in their abilities could help women convince their audience that they have so much more to offer than what people may believe.
4: “Do I sound too aggressive?”
According to common belief, a good leader should be able to stand up for what he believes in, defend his points and be tough when needed or necessary. However nowadays it is a common obstacle for women to do so without being labeled as “too bossy” or “aggressive”.
Alexandra Pierson, founder and CEO of social media app springpop talks about her initial concerns of coming off too aggressive at meetings and being afraid to sound firm when standing up for her choices. She says: “I eventually learned that, woman or not, my business would fail if I refused to defend or fight for it. Since then, I no longer worry about being seen as aggressive.”
Issues such as these are just a few of the challenges that women looking to start their own business encounter on daily basis. Social expectations and the patriarchal nature of the business environment can make it more difficult for bright, intelligent and driven women to succeed in the field. While progress has been made in many areas, being prepared to overcome gender-specific obstacles should be a part of every female entrepreneur’s toolbox.