Back in March, 2011 I wrote a post 4 Top Reasons Women Make Better Entrepreneurs. Last week a commenter requested that I write about the challenges facing women entrepreneurs today and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to tackle the subject. Nevertheless, after listening to several of my female entrepreneur colleagues, I concluded that it was a subject worth writing about and decided to give it a go. Please do not hesitate to leave your comments since I suspect this will spark some controversy.
All entrepreneurs continually face challenges. However, women entrepreneurs tend to face a unique set of challenges that their male counterparts can generally avoid. Here are the top 4 challenges they face in 2012.
1. Gender Discrimination
Women entrepreneurs need to understand that it has always been and still is a man’s business world and that the male of the species is not going to make it easier for females to get a foothold. Interestingly enough, studies show that men may be the dominant force in society not because they want to, but that their sympathy for the suffering endured by their mothers as they struggle to nurture and raise the brood brings out the male’s protective instincts and this ultimately translates into men dominating and subjugating women.
Mothers need to coach their offspring to understand that the true value that the mother brings to the brood is much more than just nurturing the brood. They also need to understand that nurturing the family without the direct help and support of the male counterpart is as complex an achievement as starting and successfully running a small company in the business world.
Women entrepreneurs need to push that concept even further along and fight to be taken seriously by their male counterparts. They need to be more assertive and also to be prepared to deal with explosive situations which women tend to want to avoid unlike their male counterparts. They need to understand that when explosive situations are managed correctly, the results are no different than managing the set of explosions that comprise a good fireworks display
2. Balancing Work and Family
Women entrepreneurs need to balance the mix of work and family. This is nothing more than proper time management. Society has deemed that because the woman spends 9 months gestating the fetus and then because she also lactates, she is expected to provide nurture and care for the brood while the father can take a hike and hunt or farm for food which she still has to prepare so that the brood can have sustenance. I hate to say it, and some of my male counterparts and my “born again Christian” friends will get on my case, but if God had been a woman, she would have balanced the responsibility for nurturing and caring for the brood across both male and female by making him lactate and suffer the same emotional and hormonal changes that accompany the close bonding between a suckling infant and a lactating parent. Then and only then would the male admit to how truly powerful it is to be a mother and at the same time aspire to perform tasks outside the nest.
The woman entrepreneur needs to make the male understand and accept the joint responsibility for everyday care of the brood. . She needs to strike a balance between caring for the family and working outside the nest.
3. Self Confidence
Women entrepreneurs need to believe in themselves and have confidence in the viability of the business ideas they bring to the table. They need to understand that it is not the idea that is great, but rather the execution of the business model behind the idea that leads to success and bring value to the business proposition. Women plan and execute as well as men and because they have less to prove themselves in a “Jockless Culture” they tend to be more productive more quickly.
Our male dominated culture is driven by our captivation with sports and combat and since most sports were invented to satisfy the yearnings of the males in society we have a tendency to believe that only males can be the quarterbacks or the gladiators. Women entrepreneurs need to make the men understand that if they give the women the weapons and step out of the way, they’ll see combat that they never thought possible
4. Network Building
Lastly, women entrepreneurs need to spend time paving the way for the next generation of female entrepreneurs. Their male counterparts have been able until now to build their networks and “good old boys” clubs with no competition from the females. The woman entrepreneur needs to understand that she’ll continue to get minimal if any help from her male counterpart. She need to grab for the next rung on the ladder and pull herself up while leaving a map that her younger counterparts can easily follow. Today the woman entrepreneur is still a pioneer and she needs to come to grips with this.
Women entrepreneurs bring a different set of perspectives into decision making in the 21st century. They are an underutilized talent pool in an increasingly talent-constrained business environment and it is time they go after what they should have had from the very beginning.