All business owners face certain challenges, but women often have unique obstacles to overcome because of their gender. Their male peers are less likely to encounter these issues. Working women who have families experience even more demands on their time, energy, and resources.
However, this does not mean women are less successful than men. In fact, statistics show that women are starting businesses at more than twice the rate of male-majority-owned businesses.More than 9 million U.S. firms are now owned by women, employing nearly 8 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales, according to 2015 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners.
The growing success rate of women entrepreneurs shows that they are resourceful and able to succeed, despite the odds.
Women business owners may face challenges in 4 major areas that are less common to men in the business.
Gender Discrimination & Stereotyping
The term gender discrimination applies whenever anyone is treated differently in the course of employment due to their gender. Gender discrimination is a civil rights violation covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It can involve pay disparities, demotion, or lack of advancement due to taking time off for family or child-related reasons.
Stereotyping, although not a federal offense on its own,can fall under the umbrella of gender discrimination. Often times, many women feel as though they need to adopt a stereotypically "male" attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive, and sometimes overly critical.
Dual Career-Family Pressures& Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is a goal of many entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, but mothers who start businesses have to simultaneously take care of their families and companies. Although the Pew Research Center found in 2014 that more and more dads were opting to stay home and care for their families, women in this area still vastly outnumber them. Remember: don’t beat yourself up for missing a class field trip. Each woman must find what works for her—a way to schedule and split her time. Finding ways to devote time to both family and business is key to truly achieving work-life balance.
Lack of Equal Opportunities in Certain Industries
Lack of equal opportunity ties in with stereotyping, which can ultimately lead to gender discrimination. In some industries, women are paid less and offered fewer opportunities. Sometimes doors are closed to them entirely because of their gender, such as in heavy construction or engineering. Many businesses avoid hiring women of childbearing age simply because they don't want to have to deal with the challenges of maternity leave.
Limited Access To Funding
The pitching process can be very stressful, and raising capital can be even more difficult for firms owned by women. Venture capitalists often tend to invest in startups run by people with similar backgrounds, experiences, and education as them. For example, an investor will likely want to back a business owned or run by a fellow alum. Likewise, venture capitalist firms with female partners are more likely to invest in women-owned startups. However, only 6% of U.S. firms are women-run according to the Babson report. A way to overcome the challenges of limited access to funding is to inspire and encourage more female investors to support each other, particularly through collaboration,funding, and strategic educational workshops.
Overcoming Business Challenges
Women often have life skills and natural abilities that are useful in business. They tend to be great at networking, and they possess inherent skills for negotiating. They also possess the ability to multitask, delegate, and budget.
Specific strategies to help women entrepreneurs and employees succeed include:
- Creating a strong support network
- Considering certifying as a women-owned business
- Learning new ways to balance work and life
- Staying current on issues that present challenges for women in business, and learn how other women overcome their own obstacles in the business world
Although these challenges can take a toll, there’s still a way to overcome these difficulties in business. Many successful female CEOs believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations.Moving forward, be yourself and have confidence in who you are. Don’t worry about conforming to someone else’s idea of what a leader should look or behave like. You made it where you are through hard work and perseverance. Keep moving forward!