For Decades, These Same 3 Issues Have Held Women Entrepreneurs Back. Here's What You Can Do About It.
Since my book Dive Right In – The Sharks Won’t Bite: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Success was published in 1995, I have seen plenty of amazing changes happen for women founders, including an increase in resources, networks and opportunities. I have observed these positive shifts not only in my own work life, but also through mentoring women and being involved in a number of female-focused organizations, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners and the National Women's Business Council.
But despite these positive changes, overall revenues for women-owned businesses have stagnated. In fact, women’s share of revenue has actually decreased from 4.4 percent to 4.2 percent of all U.S. firms since 1997. What’s more, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners, only 4.2 percent of women-owned enterprises ever reaches the million-dollar mark. Why? That’s a tough question to answer, but I suspect that it partially involves various forms of gender bias or stereotyping. We have expectations about how women should think and behave, and how driven they should be when it comes to business, success and money. This bias, on the part of both men and women, has changed little during the past 20 years, although now it can often be more subtle.
But gender bias is not the only roadblock to building a thriving business. Women’s own fears and beliefs often stand in their way to success. Here are three of the personal barriers that continue to plague women and what they can do about it.
1. PerfectionismOne of the biggest problems I saw in the mid ’90s with women wanting to start businesses was their inability to choose one business and focus on it. They would tell me about all the businesses they wanted to launch but kept stalling. At first, I thought this was a commitment issue until I realized that it was a form of perfectionism. Everything had to be perfect before they would officially launch.
Today, I see this in the woman who won’t start a business until she has the perfect name for the company, the woman who won’t delegate tasks because she can do it better herself, or the woman who obsesses over the fact that a client complained about some minor glitch. Yes, the name of your company is important, but don’t let it keep you from launching. And doing everything yourself is a way to get tasks done perfectly, but it’s not the way to build a business. You need employees, partners or outside help in order to grow. And, of course, you want satisfied customers, but don’t let something minor through you off track. Women often blame themselves for minor imperfections. Don’t do that. You need to fix the problem and move on.
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By Charumini de Silva
With a view to enhance the participation of women entrepreneurs in business and particularly in the exports sector, the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) recently held a forum titled ‘Women to the Fore in Exports’ to encourage increased participation of women in the economic development of Sri Lanka.
The forum identified and discussed key issues both at the policy and operational levels that hinder the participation of women in business activities, as well as facilitate cross-border trading transactions to accelerate economic development. The discussion also highlightedon the available Government assistance for women led businesses, especially women led startups, since the objective of the NCE is to encourage women entrepreneurs to focus on the field of exports as a professional career path, as well as a rewarding business.
During the forum the Chamber also launched its latest initiative, ‘NCE Women’s Wing’ to provide services specifically for women exporters as well as potential entrepreneurs and exporters. The NCE intends to provide a series of services such as market information, facilitating the provision of resources, and advice to build a sustainable international business for women who engage in business globally.
In addition a dedicated webpage for women entrepreneurs in the award winning NCE website, was also launched during the event.
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The Woman Behind the Business (WBB) hosted their networking takeover at Spa Logic on July 19, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Northwest, Washington, D.C..
The WBB is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support and success of women in business across America and the world. Women Behind the Business (WBB) offers networking tips, tools and more for women entrepreneurs.
The Founder and CEO of WBB, Angel Livas, chose the spa location after meeting with owner Kathy Luu and learning about the levels of adversity that she overcame in pursuing her dreams in being a business owner. “I always wanted to open up my own business. I worked hard and saved up money to get here,” Luu said.
Luu talked to the intimate crowd about how she grew up in a refugee camp, and how when she came to America she was advised to open up a nail salon. “My mom’s friend’s daughter had recently opened up a nail salon that was doing well. But, I told my mom that my dreams were different. I wanted a full service spa.”
Luu ignored the naysayers and pursued her dreams; boldly addressing those who would stand against her when the building that she wanted was about to be sold to someone else.“I told him not to give my dream away. Please don’t sell my dream. He had given me his word and after I said that he decided to follow through with his promise to me.” All the attendees were able to share their story and what their business is all about.
“I’ve always believed that storytelling allows you to capture the hearts of others. When business owners have a platform to be unapologetically honest… I’m positive that it will resonate with someone in the room…therfore leading to an organic connection,” said Livas.
The women in the room are purpose driven and focused on sharing their talents with the world. “When people ask what I like to do most, hair or nails, I say thank God I have a gift,” said Luu.
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In the U.S., approximately 40 percent of small business owners are women. And they’re optimistic about the future. Sixty-six percent of respondents in a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey believe that women will own more small businesses than men in the next 20 years. What can we do to get there? It may start with closing the confidence gap.
Says Margaret Donnell, chief marketing officer of Capital One’s Small Business Bank, “We have pretty clear evidence around us. We've seen studies out in media, I certainly have, that document a wage gap between men and women. It means that women don't always have as much money as men because of that earning power. It also means that their confidence could have been eroded over time, and so I think there's a lot we can do to lift each other up, and men as allies can lift women up, to help them feel confident and go after getting into business.”
A lack of confidence can play a crucial part in risk aversion, ultimately hindering our ability to not just strike out on our own and launch a new venture, but also do what it takes to grow.
According to Capital One’s Small Business Growth Index, 63 percent of female business owners report that current business conditions are “good or excellent,” up from 58 percent last year, whereas men jumped from 46 percent to the low sixties. But despite feeling more positive about their businesses than their male counterparts, female business owners are more hesitant to take big swings and heavily invest in their companies. According to the same Capital One report, 75 percent of men are likely to hire in the next year, compared to 63 percent of women.
So should we be swinging for the fences more? Donnell has a personal rule of thumb for major decision-making that forces her to reconsider risk-taking, and that is asking herself: “What would a male counterpart in my exact position do?”
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Getting your own business off the ground can be as difficult as it is rewarding. And when those inevitable challenges arise (or even before they do), it often seems that just about everyone — from your old coworker to your aunt who made it big in the tech boom decades ago — has some type of advice to share. But actually valuable, implementable advice? That comes from women who have started and run successful businesses in the last few years, turning one-person ventures into full-on enterprises.
In partnership with Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, TurboTax, Mint, and other programs that keep you in control of your personal and professional finances, we asked female founders and CEOs across fashion, food, communications, and other industries to share their single best piece of advice for starting a business — from pitching your idea to fundraising to just maintaining your cool while you turn your dream project into a reality.
Whether you want to open a restaurant, reinvent e-commerce, or use your personal experience and wisdom to inspire others, these crucial pieces of advice should help guide you from the get-go.
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