The Benefits and Challenges of Being a Female Entrepreneur

So, you’re a woman in business? Or you’re a woman considering entering the ring?

Well, I’m sure you’ve gotten lots of advice—some pretty encouraging and some downright disheartening.

Whom should you listen to? Who knows best? And who can you count on to continue to guide you through the joys and pitfalls of being a female entrepreneur?

The good news is that there are more and more women business owners cropping up, and many of them have experienced the type of success you’ll want to emulate. I am often asked about the “pros and cons” of being a woman in business, and I’m happy to weigh in…under one circumstance. That we not call them “pros and cons,” but rather, “benefits and challenges.”

Let’s get started.

What to Expect, as a Female Entrepreneur

Since we must overcome challenges in order to fully experience benefits, let’s start there. Here are a few challenges you can expect to encounter as you build and operate your business:

  • Stereotypes: People’s minds are definitely more open than ever before; however, there’s still an element of “she can’t do that” in the business world. Some see women as overly emotional or whiny, whilst others see them as “battle axes” on a mission to prove something. If you internalise this, you will find yourself having to choose between “acting male” or “submitting like a good girl.” Choose either one, and you’re likely to fail: because you won’t be doing business as your authentic self.
  • Lack of Acknowledgement: This might not be what you think. Media and the business world in general seem more-than-willing to acknowledge the accomplishments of women; however, we are often our own worst enemies in this realm. Because we operate in “we” capacity, giving credit to others before ourselves, we tend to be overlooked.
  • Difficulty Raising Capital: Only 2.7% of funded venture-capital companies are run by women[1], and reasons for that are up for debate. I believe there’s reluctance on the part of women entrepreneurs to ask for investments, since they already feel they’re not supported. Add to that the feeling by many banks and investors that women-owned businesses are still “unconventional,” and the reluctance is felt all around.
  • Making Lucrative Connections: When you enter a networking event, you probably immediately count the number of women there, and feel compelled to speak with them first. The majority of businesses are still run by men, and we often assume they don’t want business relationships with women. Believe this, and you’re perpetuating your very own stereotype. Make connections based on opportunity, not gender.
  • Life Balance: Let’s face it: We’re still wives, mothers, daughters, friends, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, neighbours…and we feel torn—even guilty at times. Lucky for us, times are changing and typecasts are crumbling. We need to remember to build support groups, ask for help from men and women in our lives, create businesses that allow for the time we need to love people, and delegate tasks within our companies.
  • First-Generation Challenges: Most of us were raised by stay-at-home mothers or working mothers—not mothers who were also business owners. This means that in most cases, we are first-generation female entrepreneurs: an honour and an exciting distinction, but a title without precedent to guide us. Thankfully, the numbers of female role models and mentors available to us are steadily growing.
  • Target Audience Identification: There’s a tendency among female business owners to assume that our target audiences are women. There is a high likelihood that this is true, since most purchase influencers are women; however, assuming this could be detrimental to your business. Acknowledge the scope of what you have to offer, and be honest about whom you can best serve.

Now that you’ve had a look at the challenges that await you, I hope you can see that they’re not so bad, and that in fact, all of them can be turned around and used to your advantage.

Now, for the benefits of being a female entrepreneur:

  • Feminine Energy: This isn’t something that only women have; men can tap it and practice it, too. What is feminine energy? It’s that bundle of qualities that keep us flitting from one topic to the next, speaking with vocal and vocabularic dexterity, listening actively, expressing excitement about those things for which we feel passion, and staying social and likeable, even in the worst situations. Not to be confused with simple optimism, it’s the breath of fresh air that male-dominated industries are craving right now (whether they’re ready to admit it or not).
  • Increased Mentorship: We all know successful female business owners—or at least we know of them—and I can speak with certainty that most of them will be more-than-willing to offer advice. They want to see other women succeed, too, and will take pride in being one of the reasons you “made it.” Tap into this invaluable resource for counsel and networking.
  • Attention to Detail: This isn’t just about remembering project details; it’s about recalling the intricacies of the humans we work with. It’s about remembering that our client’s daughter was ill, or that her husband’s been laid off. It’s about taking the time notice that your customer won an award, and then going out of your way to congratulate him. You may have to work at this—even take some notes—but rest-assured, you have the natural ability to make these observations, commit them to memory, and care about following up. It’s been said that the devil’s in the details, but so are the sales.
  • Emotional Intelligence: You’ve probably worked for someone who “just didn’t get you.” And chances are that person was a man. Here’s why: men as a whole, in the workplace, just aren’t that good at empathy. Women, on the other hand, are emotional-intelligence superstars. We have an innate ability to assess another’s situation, imagine what they must be feeling, look for evidence of those emotions, express our understanding, and then offer support and solutions. This goes a long way in interpersonal relationships…and it goes an even longer way in professional ones. You may have been taught to view emotion in the workplace as weakness; however, I challenge you to let it in.
    Encourage people to cry when they need to—and feel free to shed tears of your own, too. Support the expression of feelings and the resolution of conflict.
  • Leadership Qualities: If you’ve been taught that the primary skill involved with effective leadership is a heavy hand, you’ve been misled. And if this has felt unnatural to you in the past, then you’re right on track. Women are naturally more diplomatic, are better listeners, are better at stepping into their employees’ shoes, are more effective communicators, are concerned with being fair, utilise intuition to make solid decisions…and that’s just the beginning of why they’re born leaders.
  • Stress Management: As women, we are better at expressing our emotions when we’re feeling overwhelmed. This leads to the venting of frustration, and lower overall stress levels. According to GEM (Global Enterprise Monitor), women experience higher levels of overall well-being than men when in business ownership or management positions. Add to this the increasing pool of support available to us, and I’d say we’ve got this, ladies.
  • Intuition: This was touched on early, but it’s worth expanding upon. I always encourage start-ups to focus on their passion (heart), rather than earning potential (head); on that thing they love to do (heart), rather than the thing they should do (head). Along with this goes that “gut feeling” women have when they meet potential clients and business associates, when they hear about a new investor deal, when a product or process is proposed or when they interview a new candidate for the team. That “gut feeling” is intuition, and we’re using our inherent ability to subconsciously gather information from past interactions and apply what we’ve learnt to what we’re currently experiencing. You can’t teach this—but we’ve got it.
  • The Ability to Multi-Task: Women can read a menu whilst having a dinner conversation. We can approve a proposal whilst scheduling a dentist appointment. We can think about the best way to resolve a conflict whilst assembling a marketing campaign. Should we always be multi-tasking, just because we can? No. However, there are times when it will not only be beneficial, but necessary. When business picks up or you feel overwhelmed, remember that you have help available to you, as well as this sneaky little talent in your holster.

I trust that you feel well-equipped to start, manage or forge ahead with your own business. The tools you need to be successful are inside of you—and they’ve always been there. Maybe you’ve just needed someone to point them out to you, or to give you the channels through which you can discover, express and refine them.

Are in you interested in uncovering more of your inborn strengths as a business owner? Contact me here—we’ll talk.

Have a beautiful day, beautiful you.

[1] http://www.babson.edu/news-events/babson-news/Pages/140930-venture-capital-funding-women-entrepreneurs-study.aspx