Female entrepreneurs are proving that a woman's job is whatever she wants it to be. Women own 11.3 million U.S. businesses, which generate more than $1.6 trillion in annual revenue, according to Womenable's 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. Female entrepreneurs have the skill and insight to create business solutions in overlooked markets. Overcoming these unique challenges can help them pursue new enterprises and succeed in a male-dominated society.
1. Competing in a Boys Club
Female entrepreneurs face more scrutiny for their ideas when pitching a business or pursuing funding. Pushback is even greater if men don't identify with the target market. To earn respect, women have to bury their self-doubt and back up ideas with facts and statistics. Successful women are used to having their intelligence and work ethic questioned, but they focus on the strengths they bring to the table to shut out negative feelings.
2. Staying Authentic
Women in business get stereotyped no matter how they behave. They’re too aggressive when confident and authoritative or too emotional when passionately supporting a dissenting opinion. Alexandra Pierson, founder and CEO of Springpop, urges female entrepreneurs to make their expectations clear if they want their businesses to survive. Instead of acting "male," women have to find their own voice to stand up for their interests.
3. Building Support Networks
Many women struggle to penetrate elite business networks, which are essential for meeting influential partners and investors. Female entrepreneurs should build relationships through networks and events designed for women in business, such as Ellevate Network and Womancon. These professionals understand the specific challenges women encounter and can offer valuable advice on navigating entrepreneurship and avoiding missteps.
4. Balancing Business and Family
Unlike men, women frequently face judgment for pursuing a career as a parent. Any mistake or setback can make mothers feel they're failing on both fronts. However, balancing work and family can motivate female entrepreneurs to prioritize well. They learn to stop dwelling on the small things, increasing their efficiency and productivity in the long run.
5. Securing Funding
Women-owned businesses employ nearly 9 million U.S. workers, according to Womenable. Yet, women compete for funding among investors who primarily back people with similar traits or backgrounds. A strong business plan and a team with a great reputation can help women secure capital, especially if the project has high net worth potential. Because women make up a small percentage of venture capitalists, they must actively support other women-owned businesses to create more investment opportunities for female entrepreneurs.
6. Owning Achievements
Many women downplay their worth to fit the status quo, but entrepreneurship is about putting value on personal time and expertise. Shilonda Downing, founder of Virtual Work Team, advises women to "value their knowledge" and avoid giving away too much without getting a financial commitment from clients.
7. Managing Fear
On top of normal business fears, women cope with second-guessing from male peers. However, female entrepreneurs gain confidence when they accept the inevitability of failure and stop worrying about unfair treatment. Risks and setbacks are integral to success, and learning to forge ahead empowers women to overcome any self-doubt.
Female entrepreneurs are vital to the nation's economy. And while roadblocks are discouraging, women grow into talented business leaders when they find creative ways to break down gender barriers.
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