Blog | Entrepreneurship

6 Online Resources to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Discover the power of networking by joining the growing community of female entrepreneurs

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This Thursday is Thanksgiving. Can you believe that it’s coming around again already? Time really does fly.

This time of year, there are many causes and holidays that you can get swept up in, not to mention all sorts of sales and pushes to buy, buy, buy!

Because this time of year is really about giving rather than receiving, and about giving thanks for the many blessings in your life, I always try to think of ways to give back. What I have found is that one of the best ways to show your gratitude is to empower your fellow woman.

The camaraderie of women

Women have a long history of forming collective organizations intended to improve society—from waging political campaigns to founding the PTA. Women are social creatures who have always prioritized collaborating with and supporting one another while leveraging that power to build stronger communities.

Of course, that camaraderie has evolved over the decades. In the 1960s, for example, women bonded over their newfound independence gained during the Second World War with entrepreneurial endeavors like selling Tupperware or Avon.

Today, we still have that same philosophy, but our culture’s hectic pace and 24-7 mentality makes it difficult to carve out quality time for the traditional in-person gatherings of yesteryear. So we’ve developed a work-around: online communities.

Women supporting women: The cyber movement

This evolution has allowed women to find like-minded soul sisters around the world—in every niche imaginable—to brainstorm with, commiserate with, build businesses with and bond with. We now have access to women outside of our neighborhoods, and are being exposed to a global society full of possibilities.

Women need these supportive relationships to thrive, because being an entrepreneur is a tough road requiring endless determination, motivation, and collaboration. The rewards of owning a successful company are second-to-none—but it’s so much harder if you try to do it all by yourself.

A 2019 study by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame showed that 75% of female leaders maintain an inner circle composed primarily of women. This is especially beneficial in a male-dominated setting, as women can provide gender-relevant information about job cultures and offer social support to one another. Don’t you think your career would benefit from having a powerful, female-centric inner circle, too?

Get involved in women’s leadership

I’m guessing you have a list of things you want to achieve in your business and personal life, and thankfully, there are numerous resources and communities available to help you. I’ve compiled a list of the top six online resources for female entrepreneurs that are bound to lead you on your path toward financial freedom :

Girls Who Code

In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 20%. Tech jobs are among the fastest-growing in the country, yet girls are being left behind. This online, non-accredited school was founded with the goal of closing the gender gap in the technology field and is building the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the country.

If you have a daughter in middle or high school, do you think this is a path she’d be interested in? It’s an industry that would allow her to run her own empire someday. The website offers summer programs, lessons, clubs, and networking opportunities. Of course, it’s never too early to start learning how to code if you are enthralled by technology and looking for a new career path.

The BOSS Network

BOSS™ stands for “Bringing Out Successful Sisters,” and it’s an online community of professional and entrepreneurial women who support each other through conversation, online and event-based networking. The BOSS Network aims to provide growth through professional development, resources, marketing and promotional opportunities to its members. The organization is becoming a resource for companies seeking female influencers as their target market and was named by Forbes as one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurial Websites for Women.

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

Founded in 1975 by a group of like-minded businesswomen, NAWBO serves as the voice of women business owners and advocates on behalf of their entrepreneurial interests. The NAWBO Institute for Entrepreneurial Development is the educational arm of the organization, an online resource that enables women business owners to grow their business to the next level. Access to the Member Directory alone is an invaluable resource; the local chapters across the country allow you to have a more personal connection to the women in your community.

Women Who Tech

We know the future is all about technology and somehow women got a late start in this field. But we’re coming back with a vengeance! This nonprofit started in 2008 as a way to bring together talented women breaking new ground in the tech space.

Inspired by the rise of women in tech roles and advocating for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), they’ve started a Women Startup Challenge as a platform for women to showcase their startups and get the support they need. So if you’re one of the women gaining traction in AR and VR and you’re all about losing the Crypto-fraternity mentality, these may be your people.

Million Women Mentors

By now, you probably know why I use mentors and coaches. So, if you’re looking for a mentor of your own or you’d like to offer up your expertise and serve as a mentor to other women, check out Million Women Mentors. This group has celebrated over 1 million mentor relationships with a special emphasis on keeping women in STEM fields.

This online community is geared toward entrepreneurial women who juggle the task of managing a home and a business. The founder launched shortly after the birth of her first child, realizing there was a strong need for support, information and networking among parents who were working at home. Her site allows parents to share ideas, network and support one another and provides the tools necessary to start a home business.

There are dozens of other groups out there, covering every niche under the sun. So if one of these doesn’t align with your interests or situation, an online search is sure to reveal the right group for you. You may find a local Meetup group to be just what you’re looking for, or you may even want to start your own to attract your hive of like minded women. When women support each other, incredible things happen — and you owe it to yourself, and your sisterhood, to become a part of this phenomenon.

Look for networks, not jobs

While we are on the subject of women supporting other women, we can’t ignore the powerful networking opportunities that accompany joining these groups. And this is the perfect time to discuss an interesting headline from Harvard Business Review that caught my eye a few years back — and has stuck with me ever since: “Why ‘Network More’ Is Bad Advice for Women.”

The article, by Sarah Green, starts out with: “When well-meaning people give advice to young women about how to get ahead, networking is almost always at the top of the list. Make connections; get outside your comfort zone; don’t just build relationships, focus on your business. Find a mentor — no, a sponsor! — and if your company doesn’t already have a women’s network, start one. A new study suggests that perhaps this network-your-way-to-the-top advice is, for women, a tad overblown.”

Naturally, I was intrigued since I believe that networking is essential for the success of women in business. According to the study, which focused on Wall Street analysts, men and women had the same amount of contacts, but men got more out of their contacts than women did.

As Green goes on to write, “This is also not the first study to show that there are aspects of the standard (eg, male) playbook that don’t seem to work for women,” and towards the end of the piece, she looks at standard career advice for ambitious women and men, like go to a good school, get an MBA, and get a job at a top consulting firm or investment bank. In the end, she concludes, “…we need to stop telling women to follow a male playbook. It doesn’t work for women.”

In some ways, I understand where Green is coming from, but unfortunately, I think she misses the bigger picture. Her advice, after all, is focused on women who are following one path—that of a high-paid employee.

Perhaps it’s true that the male playbook doesn’t work in workplaces and industries mostly controlled and dominated by men. But the greater tragedy is that most women think they can only achieve success by following the male playbook of working up the chain in a corporation.

In my experience, the richest people in the world look for and build networks, while everyone else looks for work.

One interesting bit of insight Green’s article offers is this: women who were networked with executives had better outcomes. However, men with the same types of connections had even better outcomes, “suggesting that men are much more willing to help other men” than women are willing to help other women.

In thinking through all this, I came up with a couple thoughts I want to share with you:

  1. Women don’t need to network more; we need to network better

    That women networked with executives and had better outcomes is no surprise to me. Often networking can be just another word for socializing. True networking, however, means making the right connections in the right way for the most benefit. One important thing to do is to actively pay attention to your network and to “prune” and “plant” as necessary. Always work at spending your energy and time where it will pay off the most.

  2. Women need to invest in each other’s success

    It’s true. Because the workplace is so competitive for women, there can be a lot less cooperation. Unfortunately, this is especially true of high-paid employees who see the business world as one of scarcity. There are, after all, only a few positions available and a lot of women vying for them.

    One of the things I love about being an entrepreneur is that I don’t compete for position. This has allowed me to network with many great men and women who are invested in my success as much as I’m invested in theirs. But regardless of your career path, women, we need to have each other’s backs! If we want to get ahead, we need each other.

  3. Get a new game!

    If it’s true that the men’s playbook doesn’t work for women in the high-stakes world of consulting and investment firms, perhaps it’s time to not get a new playbook but instead a new game.

Now, as Thanksgiving nears, it’s time to think truly about what you want, and how you can support other women to get what they want.

If you want to be a CEO, stop climbing the corporate ladder. Start your own company! The world, contrary to popular belief is not filled with scarcity. Rather it’s filled with abundance! And those willing to go out and grab what’s out there can make the rules as they go.

Begin your network — or add to it — by joining our free, online community here.

Original publish date: October 26, 2017

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