How to Overcome Four Obstacles that Female Entrepreneurs Face
It’s no secret that women share an entirely different set of hurdles on their way to success. While there are a plethora of them, overcoming the four most common can make the jump not only possible, but more enjoyable. From working harder to prove themselves both professionally and financially, to finding themselves battling imposter syndrome (even Oprah said she deals with it!), the struggle is real. Here’s how to handle each one like a leader (because anyone can be a boss).
Getting Access to Capital. The global disparity in funding based solely on gender is alive and well according to a global survey conducted by 99designs of 3,000 entrepreneurs. While the cross-section seems small, the implications are large: men were nearly twice as likely to raise at least $100K or more in funding for their business than women. Despite this, according to this 2012 U.S. Small Business Administration Survey, while women generated $1.4 trillion in sales in 2012 alone, the revenue each woman-owned business generated is $1 dollar to every $2.30 for a man-owned one. So how do women overcome this? So how do we put a dent in this disparity? The first step is to be vocal about it because the more we women share our stories of success (and how we overcame the struggles to get there even in the face of the inequality), the more likely it is that more women will go after funding. There are currently some funding options that give specifically to women entrepreneurs at very high rates of approval. No matter which path you take, the bottom line is that by going after the capital and sharing your success, you’re part of the solution.
The (Self-Made) Burden of Proof. Undervaluing ourselves as women is unfortunately pretty universal, according to this Yale Study on the subject. We educate ourselves more and ask for less (18% less on average, to be exact). This is a trend that requires us to look internally to discover the things we may have been taught growing up. Values like helpfulness and kindness can sabotage us, especially when it comes to the giving aspect of kindness, which can encourage women to ask for less and give more. The simplest way to go about this is a mindset shift. While positive affirmations may or may not be for you, more practical applications include looking at salary comparisons on sites like glassdoor.com. Know what your male counterparts are making for the same work and ask for it.
Having (and Doing) It All. Childcare. Event Planning. Career goals. Volunteering. Shuttling. Caretaking. There are so many things that fall on our plates as women. While there is value to saying yes, like the book on the subject by Shonda Rhimes, we too often say yes to everything. Prioritizing based on YOUR needs first (without guilt) will help you to manage time with your family vs. your career. While it’s true that there is a societal bias that works against working moms (questions such as “where is your daughter?” are all too common, even for high status women like Tina Fey), you can make a different choice. And you are far from alone in doing so. I’m going to let Tina Fey take it from here:
“‘How do you juggle it all?’ people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes. ‘You’re screwing it all up, aren’t you?’ their eyes say. My standard answer is that I have the same struggle as any working parent but with the good fortune to be working at my dream job. Or sometimes I just hand them a juicy red apple I’ve poisoned in my working-mother witch cauldron and fly away.”
Imposter Syndrome. It turns out that being “found out” is pretty a universal phenomenon for women. Sheryl Paul, who has counseled thousands on the subject (and been on the Oprah Winfrey Show, among others), knows all too well how self-doubt of this nature can sabotage the strongest of women. Here are the common personality traits of those prone to suffering the most from this crushing form of self-doubt, according to Paul:
- Highly sensitive
- High achieving
- Difficulty making decisions
- Prone to anxiety, intrusive thoughts
- Scared to fail
While so many of us suffer from one or more of these traits, we too rarely talk about them, especially as female entrepreneurs. Meeting powerful and energetic go-getters just like you is vital to your success as an entrepreneur. I recommend Ellevate Network, FemCity, or the International Association of Women Business Owners, to name a few. If you have a home office or currently work in an uninspiring space, consider the support you may be able to see in a female run (and focused!) coworking space like Hera Hub that takes collaboration and camaraderie to a whole new level.
Remember that these four growing pains associated with growing your business are worth it and completely surmountable because you started your business for a reason. Finish strong!