Women Entrepreneurship

As 2017 Winds Down, Let’s See How Far We’ve Come…and How Far We Have to Go.

For most people, the New Year is a time for reflection. It gives us a marker by which we can measure how far we’ve progressed as individuals, and to look at where we are as a society.

If you’ve followed my blog for very long, you’ll know that I’m a passionate advocate for women in business, and while 2017 saw some ups and downs, it’s been a powerful year on that front. This year saw a lot of women stepping up to demand greater recognition—and greater power—within their workplaces. That’s a positive trend, but even more promising is the fact that more women than ever are going the extra step and engaging in entrepreneurship.

We’re closing in on 10 million women-owned businesses in the US. That’s a vital piece of the puzzle if women are going to step out of the shadows and gain acceptance and respect in leadership roles.

Women-owned businesses create comfortable work environments in which other women can thrive. They promote economic independence and counteract the effects of hiring bias, and most-importantly, they serve as incubators for a new generation of women leaders.

Female entrepreneurs lead a wide range of businesses in diverse industries, reflecting an extraordinary range of skills and interests. Research has found no substantive link between female entrepreneurs’ skillsets and underperformance in business; in fact, women entrepreneurs may even outperform their male counterparts.

Men & Women Match Certain Skillsets

There are many skills, views, and mental abilities shared across gender lines. Other similarities of circumstance exist as well; for example, both male and female entrepreneurs tend to have previous business experience. They also tend to enjoy the support and encouragement of a mentor or a role model.

That said, part of the broader value in seeing greater rates of entrepreneurship among women is in the inherent differences between men’s and women’s approaches to business. For example, women entrepreneurs are more likely to have pursued a liberal arts degree, as opposed to a degree in a more technical field like engineering. I’ve touched on the need for more women in STEM education several times on this blog, among other subjects elsewhere; however, there’s still value in entrepreneurs with non-technical backgrounds.

Women tend to strive for a greater relationship between business and community, and are more likely to embark on a new venture based on a perceived need within their community, or in society. While business autonomy is important to women as well as men, women tend to list their primary reason for going into business as a desire for self-fulfillment.

The Challenges Facing Female Entrepreneurs

Of course, women also face a unique slate of challenges that make it difficult to get started in entrepreneurship.

One of the biggest roadblocks is access to capital. Women entrepreneurs face an uphill battle in acquiring funding from VCs or other investors. They tend to rely on crowdfunding or small, short-term loans from a bank much more than their male counterparts. Not only is this piecemeal, inconsistent funding less-reliable and more expensive to secure, but it places additional pressures on the business with less room for failure.

The problem is even more pronounced in the developing world, where aspiring entrepreneurs typically need to rely on family members to help launch a business. Even despite the extra barriers, rates of entrepreneurship among women in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of Asia have achieved near-parity with men.

Striving for Progress in 2018

The process has been arduous, but we’re making great strides toward advancing women in entrepreneurial roles. Looking forward to 2018, let’s make it one of our primary goals to advance the cause of entrepreneurial women in the US and beyond.

We can achieve this through advocacy, as well as through patronage. Make a conscious effort to support women-owned businesses: that’s a new year’s resolution that’s easy to keep!

Monica Cardone