Women entrepreneurship worldwide has gained momentum in the 21st century —thanks to feminism and reformism. Women all across the globe are veering toward entrepreneurship in increasing numbers, be it the knack of business or the urge to achieve financial freedom. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor women’s report from Babson College and Smith College in 2019, estimates that over 250million women worldwide are entrepreneurs. Research and statistics are frequently showing how women are potentially great leaders and even outsmart men in leadership skills defeating gender-stereotypes.
For the 19th and 20th centuries, the journey of women entrepreneurship had been a rough ride that was erratic and intermittent. Things changed with the technological boom and cheap access to the internet. In the 21st century, more women than ever are leveraging their fundamental business skills and leadership to create wonders. Women entrepreneurs thrive in almost every sector, including retail, finance, energy, fashion, and even in typically male-dominated businesses like utilities and mining. Globally, there is a growing acceptance of the women-style leadership that is more people and ethics oriented.
Since 1972, The number of women-owned businesses increased nearly 3,000% since 1972, according to the 8th annual state of women-owned business report, commissioned by American express in 2018. In recent years, better government policies and legislation have put women at ‘competitive advantage in entrepreneurship. Though the current statistics paint a colorful picture of triumph when it comes to women entrepreneurship, it is important to note that women own businesses are not seeing equitable growth as men. Studies show that women-owned businesses still earn 25 cents for every dollar earned by men.
There are several reasons for it. Some of those are avoidable mistakes done by women leaders unwittingly, while unfair socio-cultural systems catalyze some setbacks in place.
Not believing in themselves Enough, Being Too Hard or Self-Critical
Despite having every potential to achieve success, some women leaders become victims of the Imposter Syndrome (IS) that generates chronic anxiety, feeling of inadequacy, or inability to recognize one’s success. Ironically, Imposter Syndrome is more prevalent among high-achieving women. Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who identified IS syndrome in 1978, believed that it only affects women, though research later revealed that men could be affected. But they tend to overcome it while women fall victim. While IS can be a great gift when it helps in achieving more and pushing boundaries, it risks burn-out and ends up as an impediment to progress. It is thus essential to recognize the signs of IS and work towards overcoming it by self awareness and understanding imposter feeling when they arise. Also women entrepreneurs need to express and open dialogue about their feelings. Seek support from others to overcome these negative thoughts and get a good reality check.
Delaying entry into Entrepreneurial Pursuits
Due to deep-rooted social conditioning, some women tend to doubt their business abilities despite having everything they need to succeed.
Simonetta Lein Millennial Entrepreneur, Fashion Influencer, Activist, said,
Having taken an additional seven years before turning my hustle into a real business, I realized my fears had more to do with being a woman than any other factor.
According to her to be successful in the man’s world, women entrepreneurs require lots of grit and hardwork. This is one of the reason for delay in pursuing their entrenpreneurial stint.
Not being aware of their Leadership Styles
Society associates leadership qualities with assertiveness, boldness, aggressiveness, and dominance, traits which are naturally less prevalent in women. Women on the other hand have a style of leadership which is different from the old school transactional leadership style of men. Women’s leadership style is largely collaborative with great focus on emotional quotient. These involve empathy, intuition, team building, compassion, and collaboration. Studies have found that women-leadership skills often outshine men. Women need to be more aware of their leadership styles to bolster their confidence to improve business outcomes.
Choosing less Growth-Oriented Businesses
Studies have shown that women are likely to opt for businesses that are smaller in scale and size. Data suggests women getting lesser start-up capitals than men and settle in for business that are less scalable. Women prefer businesses that have more social impact than growth. While smaller businesses are more manageable and allow more flexibility to women, on the flip side, those businesses are less lucrative to banks and potential investors. Women of make the mistake of not devoting more time to find right investors.
Being Reluctant to Take Risks
Women often try to play it safe when it comes to starting a new venture or scaling up an existing one. Unless they are willing to push boundaries, they would never realize their full potential. If women are not willing to risk the unusual, they will have to settle for the ordinary. The key is to take calculated risks.
In the words of Jim Rohn –
Only those who will risk going too far can find out how far one can go.
Getting Demotivated by their own Mistakes or Failures
Mistakes are the best way to learn what can ultimately work best. The biggest asset to cultivate is unflinching hope and confidence to try again after a mistake. Samantha Plue, president of D3 NYC, a strategic creative agency that works with clients to align their brand through cross-channel marketing communications to drive business. In order to avoid mistakes or failure, women tend to play safe and hold their desires back. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of Huffington Post, once said that the difference between failure and success is perseverance. Therefore one should keep trying till success happens and not give up.
Trusting too much too soon:
Women specifically overlook the idea of protecting a business legally and get into partnerships that end up in risk. This leads to a direct setback and hindrance to growth. A Non Disclosure Agreement with clear working terms is a failsafe way to be protected in the long run.
Losing touch with Peers
Strong and independent women who venture into entrepreneurship somehow tend to lose touch with peers. It makes them lose out on the peer advantage. A study published in the American economic journal has shown that women who train with their friends are more likely to take business loans, take higher risks, have more business activity leading to higher income. Women should leverage on the positive impacts of training with their peers.
While it is easy to denounce women’s leadership abilities for the slump in businesses, it is unfair to put the entire onus of pitfalls on women leaders. For one, women are still subjected to harsher criticism when it comes to leadership mistakes. An interesting observation by World Finance showed that women are often often set to fail in leadership positions. It has been established through evidence that most companies are likely to promote their women for leadership in situations of crisis when businesses are crumbling, validating the glass cliff phenomenon, coined by Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam in 2005. The glass cliff akin to the glass ceiling faced in leadership by women is like an invisible stumbling block for women in leadership positions. It is a way of purposefully putting a woman in an impossible situation to singularly bear the brunt of an evident failure.
Marissa Mayer was expected to bring a complete revamp to trailing internet giant Yahoo after being hired as the CEO in 2012. Things went worse, which led to security breaches, internal conflicts, stagnant growth, wilting employee spirits, Yahoo was finally sold off to Verizon at $4.48 billion. While all of those reasons hold weight, it is also obvious that Mayer was made to lead Yahoo when the company was on its last legs. Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard, Pat Russo of Lucent, Zoe Cruz of Morgan Stanley, Diane Greene of VMware, and Dawn Hudson of Pepsi-Cola North America and even British prime minister Theresa May are classic cases of women falling off the glass-cliff when appointed as leaders at the time of inevitable failures.
The infamous gender pay gap is still prevalent today. According to the Census Bureau, women might not reach pay equity with men for another hundred years. Equitable promotion at work is still a far-fetched goal for women. No wonder entrepreneurship is the best bet for talented women to work on their terms, do what they love, and earn as much they deserve. Moreover, nothing can provide women more flexibility and satisfaction as entrepreneurship in what they are passionate about.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2014 has forecasted that by 2022, one billion women will enter the mainstream economy as employers, producers, and entrepreneurs. Women must understand that women lead differently than men, and it’s fine! Dr.Angela Massey, the author of the book, Leads Like A Woman, has highlighted women’s effectiveness as managers, leaders, and teammates, outstrip the abilities of their male counterparts in 28 of 31 managerial skill areas.
It is time that women unravel the leadership blocks specific to women-led organizations and learn from them. Fail forward fearlessly is the key to succeeding again!