The business world is mostly dominated by men. But over the years, we’ve seen countless women entrepreneurs rise above expectations and defy norms. The number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. increased by 114% within the last twenty years, of which 70% were started by women of color. The reality is that women are playing an important role in driving global economic growth. However, despite women’s massive success, they still face challenges today that most of their male counterparts don’t.
What are the 5 Major Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face in Business?
1. Defying Social Expectations
Society tells us that women’s roles are to bear children, do household chores, and take care of their families- not run businesses. So, when female entrepreneurs attend business events that are mostly saturated by men, they feel like they need to prove themselves by adopting a stereotypical “male” approach towards business: competitive, assertive, and tough.
But many successful women CEOs believe that giving up the need to always please others, staying true to who you are, and finding your voice are the keys to rising above social expectations. Here are tips on how to rise above social expectations:
- Remind yourself who you are and why you started your business. When you live in a society where people have preconceived expectations from both genders, you tend to let these notions get the best of you. If you feel like you’re no longer yourself, take a step back and remind yourself of who you are and why you started your business.
- Capitalize on the fact that you’re a woman. Society has preconceived expectations towards women, a lot of people tend to underestimate female entrepreneurs. Because your competitors don’t see you as a threat, take advantage of this opportunity to get ahead of the competition!
- Own it. None of those social expectations stopped you from starting and running your own company, so why should it bother you now? Own the fact that you’re a successful woman in a man’s world! You worked hard for the things you have today and you will continue to defy gender roles and social norms as you continue to achieve more success in the future.
“If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”- Michele Ruiz
2. Fighting to be Taken Seriously
Because of society’s preconceived notions about women, a lot of female entrepreneurs are still fighting to be taken seriously and respected. It’s frustrating and infuriating when your workplace does not want to acknowledge your role as a leader. However, don’t let it discourage you and stop you from reaching your full potential. Instead, use it to fuel your desire to be better while never letting it consume you to the point that you lose yourself in the process of achieving success.
A lot of women have been disrespected and are still not being taken seriously in the workplace. Alison Gutterman, the CEO and president of Jelmar, says she had experienced disrespect early in her career. She said that she had to face presumptions that she was only taking advantage of her father’s and grandfather’s reputation since Jelmar is her family’s business.
But she knew that it wasn’t true and she’s a hardworking and honorable business person in her own right. So, to overcome all this negativity, she had to learn how to build her confidence and overcome her negative thinking. She also joined various women entrepreneur groups and surrounded herself with mentors and peers to inspire her.
3. Difficulty Accessing Funds
Access to capital is necessary to help businesses, especially small ones, grow. However, even though 12.3 million businesses in the U.S. are women-owned, proving that they’re capable and trustworthy, they still struggle to access funds. Loan approval rates for female entrepreneurs are 15 to 20% less compared to men, and they only receive 7% of venture capital investment money.
This has something to do with discrimination, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. But even though this issue isn’t something that could be fixed overnight, the future is still bright for all aspiring women entrepreneurs. If you’re struggling to access funding, explore all options possible. You can try loaning from the Small Business Administration, angel investment firms, and grant institutions because they specifically offer loan programs to women-owned businesses.
4. Difficulty Acknowledging Accomplishments
According to a study conducted by LinkedIn, women are less likely to talk about their achievements compared to men. It may have something to do with the fact that the gender gap still exists in our culture. Molly MacDonald, the founder and CEO of The Mobile Locker Co., said that she’s always had difficulty acknowledging and owning her accomplishments and success. She said she’s apprehensive that if people knew she’s the only one in control of her company people would see the value of her business differently. But she also said that as she’s growing her business, she’s making the conscious effort to own her success.
“I want every little girl who’s been told she’s bossy to be told again she has leadership skills.” – Sheryl Sandberg
5. Fear of Failure
Every business, whether it’s owned by a man or woman, has the possibility to fail. But instead of looking at your glass half empty, try seeing it as half full! Starting a business is never easy. But you’ll never know if you’ll succeed unless you try. If you’re afraid to fail, use it as a motivation to thrive. There will always be challenges along the way and you’ll probably experience many hardships, but don’t give up. Focus on your destination, learn from your mistakes, try again.
Women entrepreneurs face all kinds of challenges each day but the number of businesses owned by females continues to increase each day. It only means that women are defying norms and succeeding at managing their own companies, providing jobs for the community, and contributing to the economic growth of the country. Don’t let challenges stop you from reaching your full potential. Be a part of the 252 million women around the world who are entrepreneurs!