The Unique Challenges of Female Entrepreneurs and How to Overcome Them

The last fifty years have fuelled significant positive change in the domain of equal rights for men and women, but inequities persist nonetheless. Only 21 of the top 1000 public companies are run by female CEOs. In Canada, only 27% of elected Parliament members are women. Perhaps most alarming is that the gender pay gap in Canada is among the worst in the OECD nations. Canadian men are typically paid 20% more than women in the same role.

Why is this? What challenges continue to fuel this bias, and what can we do about it?

These are very complicated questions with many layers and considerations. This blog post will specifically examine how women address the unique challenges they encounter, particularly as entrepreneurs, and what they are doing to overcome them.

Balancing work and family

While men certainly assume responsibilities relative to their families, the practical reality is that women continue to bear the brunt. Women have to juggle pregnancy, recovery, breastfeeding, and caring for the children. In fact, according to a recent survey by the American Board of Labor, for every hour of childcare provided by the mother, the father spent 26 minutes on similar tasks.

To nurture a sense of balance between work and family, women must make sure they prioritize their time thoughtfully. A skipped bath, or perfectly prepared dinner does not matter as much as quality time spent with the people you love. Similarly, at work, make sure most of your time is being spent on strategic priorities, and don’t waste time on the more mundane tasks that don’t necessarily contribute to results.

Finding mentors

A sound mentoring relationship promotes career success. But for women, it is difficult to find female mentors who have successfully managed similar challenges, because, quite simply, they are underrepresented. 48% of female founders report that a lack of professional advisors and mentors limited their professional growth.

Women should seek out mentors assertively, sometimes in unexpected places. Take advantage of LinkedIn groups and local MeetUps to find a mentor. And don’t necessarily rule out a male mentor. The right person, irrespective of gender, can help you blaze a trail in your career.

Fearing failure

There is a significant body of research that demonstrates women are far more fearful of failure than men, particularly in professional circumstances. One study shows that for female business owners, it is one of the more crippling challenges they face. There are many explanations for why this is the case, but the more important consideration is how to overcome it. Being able to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and ultimately succeed is critical. All entrepreneurs fail, at some point. But successful entrepreneurs understand that overcoming failure (not fearing it) is what distinguishes them from those who struggle.

Get comfortable with failure. Let yourself experience it, and walk through the steps necessary to get through it. Talk to others who have weathered similar failures. And once you are on the other side, take stock of everything you have learned.

Owning your success

Men are much more inclined to take credit for their achievements. Women tend to hedge – and credit others. This may be, in part, because when women take credit, it is often perceived as vain. It is important for women to take ownership of their success, be proud of it, and articulate it to key decision makers and influencers.

Being able to herald your success is important. It helps drive corporate growth, inspire a sense of confidence in your employees and more firmly establish your position as an effective leader. Practice talking in these terms and get comfortable owning your success.

If you are a female entrepreneur, and you are seeking guidance on how to grow your business, contact Miller Bernstein today for your free consultation.