Blog | Entrepreneurship

3 Challenges Female Entrepreneurs Face

Learn how to overcome some of the biggest barriers to success

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Kermit the Frog famously sang, “It’s not easy being green.” Miss Piggy should have cut him off and added that it’s also not easy being a woman. And how could it be in our male-dominated world? Yes, we have made significant gains, especially in the workforce, but we still have a ways to go.

Perhaps that’s why women are turning to entrepreneurship to close the gender gap and move further along their career paths. Women own 36% of all businesses, according to the 2012 U.S. Census—a jump of 30% over 2007. Sounds good, right? Yet, only 3 percent of women-owned firms in the U.S. generate $500,000 or more in revenue, compared to 9 percent of male-owned firms, according to the 2016 State of Women Owned Businesses report commissioned by American Express OPEN. And relatively few women-owned firms ever break through the $1 million of revenue barrier, according to research by the Kauffman Foundation.

I believe this is due, in large part, to the unique challenges female entrepreneurs face. Thankfully, our challenges are not insurmountable—being aware of them will help you figure out how to overcome them. Let’s explore a few that are top of mind:

Challenge 1: Playing in the big boy sandbox

Since most industries still tend to be male-dominated, you may need to break into that “Old Boys Club” that has been around since literally the beginning of time. The biggest issue here is usually earning respect from men who may not be accustomed to working with women or have preconceived notions about women in the workplace.

Solution: Earn respect by demonstrating knowledge.

Whether you are investing in real estate or raising capital to open the bakery of your dreams, you must learn everything you can about your chosen field. Read books, attend conferences and webinars, listen to podcasts, join professional organizations, find a mentor, set Google alerts for industry news and trends—whatever it takes. The more competent you are, the more confident you will be. Nobody will question your expertise when you begin citing statistics from a recently published industry study during an important meeting. Oh, and you’ll need to keep honing your skills for the rest of your career, as learning absolutely never stops.

Challenge 2: Moving past mistakes

According to Babson College’s 2012 Global Entrepreneur Monitor, the fear of failure is the top concern of women who launch startups. But if you’re going down the path of entrepreneurship, know going into it that you’re going to make mistakes. There’s no way around it. I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes throughout my decades of real estate investing. Some were downright painful, professionally, personally and financially. But if I’d let those mistakes paralyze me and keep me from moving forward or trying again, I’d be sitting in a miserable cubicle doing a job I hate for a paycheck that’s barely worth my time. And that was motivation enough to propel me forward when all I wanted to do was quit.

Solution: Getting back on that bike

Ok, so you’ve fallen—but you can get up. Resiliency, the ability to recover from setbacks, is crucial. According to Ben Dattner, author of The Blame Game: “Women are more likely to be intropunitive—to unduly blame themselves. Whereas men are more likely to be extrapunitive—to blame other people, or to be impunitive, and to deny blame.” Women can be so hard on themselves, and that cruel internal dialogue is something men just don’t subscribe to. Instead of letting your inner critic impede your ability to bounce back, make sure you have a solid support system (coaches, mentors, other women embarking on a similar journey, etc.) in place that you can call upon when needed. When you meet an unexpected setback or mishap, you’ll undoubtedly get discouraged if you think you have to have all the answers and solve every problem yourself. Lean on your support team to boost your confidence and talk you off the proverbial ledge. They will happily remind you of your why if you’re lost your way.

Challenge 3: Work-life balance

Balancing business and family life is a struggle for any entrepreneur, regardless of their gender, but mothers often find this juggling act the most difficult. After all, if they are in a more traditional relationship, they are busy simultaneously running their households and their companies. And when the balance gets out of whack, either your home life or your business will suffer—and this can easily lead to guilt, stress or worse.

Solution: Accept that perfection is unattainable

It’s easy to get caught up in focusing on your shortcomings—missing one of your daughter’s regular-season volleyball matches, for instance—and let the guilt consume you. But you shouldn’t take things too seriously or beat yourself up over some of the less significant things. When you are faced with an imbalance, take a step back, and ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in five years?” If the answer is no, as in the example above, then don’t spend more than five minutes being upset about it. Let it go and move on. If the answer is yes—let’s say it’s your daughter’s solo performance at a piano recital—then re-prioritize to make it happen.

We may be dubbed “the fairer sex,” but I firmly believe we are the stronger sex. Women who want to achieve their financial dreams simply have to look for opportunities to turn some of our gender’s so-called “disadvantages” into advantages and equal the playing field.

Original publish date: March 22, 2018

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