As a woman intent on making it in the business world, there is a rough sea of challenges facing you. These challenges, which men do not necessarily have to face – or even think about – will make you stronger, more capable and possibly even more successful than your male counterparts, once you overcome them.
Here are five of the major obstacles facing female entrepreneurs, today:
1. Women-owned startups receive less investor funding
Women-led, innovation-driven entrepreneurial businesses are not getting enough venture capital funding – less than 5% of VC dollars go to women-led companies according to Professor Fiona Murray of MIT Sloan, commenting on the first GEDI report in 2013.
Venture capitalists tend to invest in startups run by people of their own 'tribe'. A woman looking for investors is advised to build confidence through a great team and business plan. Investors are typically looking for businesses that can grow to very high valuations, so make sure that you and members of your founding team can execute the business and operations expertly.
Overcome this challenge with persistence. Keep asking for what you want, irrespective of the number of rejections you get. You must press on while proving why you should be trusted.
2. Fear of failure and taking risks
Women are generally less prone to taking risks and can let their own fears of failure, or even fear of success, stand in the way of pursuing the path of entrepreneurship. Confidence is the #1 weapon to combat these fears, and the best way to feel confident in what you are doing is to make sure that you are as prepared as possible before you start your business endeavor. Also, believe in what you bring to the table and value your time, efforts and capabilities.
3. Balancing business and family
Coco Chanel famously said: “There is time for work, and time for love. That leaves no other time.”
Balancing business and family is a huge challenge. Women are still considered the backbone of the family, and women entrepreneurs often find themselves torn between commitment to their family and their businesses.
Handling such challenges demands time management and delegation – both essential to your balancing act of building a successful business alongside a family.
4.Cultural and Societal barriers
Many cultures or traditions see the husband as the breadwinner. A woman exhibiting her entrepreneurial prowess is presumed as wanting to take over the leadership role from the husband.
This challenge also surfaces in families where the husband is an entrepreneur. Male children are usually groomed to run the family business while the female children are usually left out of this process.
Societal discrimination still dictates that certain businesses or tasks are better handled by men: e. g. auto mechanic, commercial bus driver, plumber, etc. Women are often assumed to be generally incompetent in certain fields, and people would rather do business with men because it’s believed that they are 'born to do it'.
As a result of this societal view, some women fear that they will not being taken seriously and that their opinions and advice will not always viewed as 'expert'. When a female starts a business, sometimes family, friends, and others in the business community view it as a hobby or a side project to family duties, rather than a bona fide business. Women need to realize that gender bias is a true obstacle and overcome it.
Develop a tough skin towards criticism. Stop seeing your feminine gender as a weakness; embrace it as a strength, and prove yourself by striving to outperform your male competitors.
5. Feeling intimidated in a male-dominated field
When women entrepreneurs have to talk business with primarily male executives, it can be intimidating. To compensate, women often feel they need to adopt a 'male' attitude: competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh. This is not necessarily the best way to go.
Be yourself, have confidence in who you are. Don't try to 'be a man'. Have confidence in your abilities to run a business. Back up initiatives with a solid business case. Never be unprepared for any questions.
Women naturally have extraordinary common sense, a sharp intuition and great focus on people. These are extremely valuable characteristics in business and can help set you apart as a leader. Overcoming these 5 main challenges will help any woman entrepreneur on her path to success.