The entrepreneurial world has seen a definite rise in the number of women business owners in the past few years, but these women still face many challenges that make it difficult to excel.
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Making it as an entrepreneur is difficult as it is – all the barriers to entry, finding sufficient funding, and surviving the growing pains – but the rewards and freedom that come with owning your own business are well worth the blood, sweat, and tears. Being an entrepreneur also allows you unprecedented work flexibility, which is highly desirable for working parents, mothers especially.
More mothers want to go back to work, but still maintain a level of flexibility that allows them to be with their children, and many are seeing entrepreneurship as their ticket. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the “labor force participation rate — the percent of the population working or looking for work – for all mothers with children under age 18 was 70.5 percent in 2012.” As for women business owners, American Express OPEN’s 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report found that, “As of 2013, it is estimated that there are over 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating over $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.8 million people.”
Although the state of women-owned businesses is healthier now than it ever was in the past, there are still obvious inequalities that women entrepreneurs face – such as less funding and growth problems. In fact, an AMEX Open infographic shows that, as women-owned businesses reach five to nine employee or reach earnings of $250,000, they begin experiencing faltering growth. This “failure to thrive” in business might have something to do with these four challenges listed below that seem to affect women entrepreneurs and not their male counterparts.
1. Emotions and work don’t mix. Let’s get one thing clear – being an emotional wreck is not the same thing as being an emotional person (a.k.a., a “feeler”). Many women feel that expressing any sort of emotion in a professional setting indicates weakness or vulnerability. However, this isn’t the ’50s anymore, when men ran the business world and women just sat there quietly and obediently behind secretary desks. Being an entrepreneur is all about building relationships with women and men – and what better way to do that than by exuding passion, empathy, and showing your true self to others? People want to do business with people they know, like, and trust, so don’t be afraid to be YOU!
2. Women are expected to do it all. Studies show that women, regardless of whether they’re working or not, take on much more household responsibilities than men. Therefore, women entrepreneurs are expected to not only run a full-time business, but also to keep a house and home. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, encourages men to step up to the plate and help their career-oriented wives in the home, as she states, “Give us a world where half our homes are run by men, and half our institutions are run by women. I’m pretty sure that would be a better world.” Equal contributions (as well as support) in and out of the home will allow women to thrive as entrepreneurs and mothers.
3. Looks matter. Ask any woman what’s the toughest part of her morning routine, and she’ll most likely tell you it’s getting ready. As if it’s not difficult enough to figure out what to wear to work, women must deal with figuring out how to style their hair and also find the time to throw on some makeup. Just take a look around you during your morning commute and you’ll see an alarming number of women applying their makeup while driving – which is an art form all on its own. Looking the part is an important factor in feeling confident as a business owner, especially for women. Therefore, think of getting ready every morning as a powerful business tool that boost your confidence, rather than an annoying monotonous routine that forces you to roll out of bed.
4. Women can’t be too pushy, but also can’t be pushovers. Men who are assertive and direct are viewed as confident and keen in the business world. However, women who are just as assertive run the risk of being labeled as mean and overbearing, simply because of their gender. If women entrepreneurs want to be successful, then they should completely banish the idea that they will be viewed in a different light as men for being assertive. Think of it as confidence coming through, not cattiness. People are likely to view you the way you view yourself.
Women have come so far in the business world, and they’ve only just begun to make their mark as entrepreneurs. As many studies show, having female leaders is great for business, as they have been shown to produce higher profits, less turnover, and happier employees than companies with all male leaders. However, there are still stigmas that exist for women in business that make the road to success a bumpy one. Hopefully, these gender disparities will fade away over time and women will get the equality and fairness they deserve in the business world.
Female entrepreneurs, see why now is your time to shine, here.
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