It only requires a look around the business world of today to see that more and more strides toward gender equality are being made than ever before. From Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook to Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo, there are plenty of inspirational women entrepreneurs in this space who are showing the world what they can do. However, there are still some hardships in the way for a lot of women who want to strike out on their own as entrepreneurs. Here are some of the main problems women face as entrepreneurs and some top tips on how to manage them.
The problems women face
For many men, getting ahead in their entrepreneurial career is a challenging task, but with a simple and clear route. For women, it’s not quite the same.
One of the most high-profile debates when it comes to women in work is the issue of maternity leave. There is, of course, no way around biology, but what is clear is that some employers don’t always step up to the plate when it comes to giving women the time off they need. As an entrepreneur, this can be even worse: if you are the employer and there’s no cash coming in yet, it can seem like there’s nowhere to turn.
Depending on where they are in the world or what their government’s position on the matter is, some women may find that they are entitled to nothing more than a couple of weeks of leave – and while that’s fine for some women, everyone’s needs are different. Others may find that they are entitled to generous maternity pay but experience social pressure from their business partners or investors to only take a short period of time off. Almost all women entrepreneurs have wondered from time to time whether they will find it hard to reintegrate once they get back, even if they have generous entitlements and a supportive team.
There are lots of other reasons why women entrepreneurs face issues. The company cultures common in some – though not all – places can leave a lot to be desired, and there are horror stories of women entrepreneurs being undermined or harassed by male advisors, investors, and even new hires just on the basis of their gender. For some women, meanwhile, the issue is more systematic: in many parts of the world, women are simply not encouraged to shoot for the stars from a young age in the same way that many men are by their parents, their teachers, their career advisors, and more. When years of not receiving this encouragement is all totaled, the impact can sometimes be quite high.
How to surge ahead
All in all, there is a wide range of reasons why it may seem to women like the glass ceiling is hard to crack. But there are some ways to do it. There is no one particular guaranteed route to success if you’re looking to thrive as a woman in a male-dominated workplace, but there are some ways that women can make it work.
First of all, it’s important to get a good support network in place. Depending on your personal circumstances, this could look different for you compared to how it looks for other women. For women who are finding that they have a lot of household responsibilities in the way of their entrepreneurship dream, for example, consider splitting tasks more equally with your significant other. For those who find that they are unable to advance in their career, a mentor with more experience may be ideal as a sounding board for your ideas.
It’s also important to make sure that you keep yourself present as much as possible. By contributing in meetings and making sure that you attend workplace social events, you’ll prevent yourself from becoming invisible. It’s also important to work hard! This is true for both sexes; however, women in particular – unfortunately – often need to demonstrate their potential a little harder than men do when it comes to hiring, getting investment, and more.
Finally, it’s worth considering focusing on a particular area or strategy in order to mark yourself out as an innovative leader. Many women entrepreneurs, for example, choose a strategy that may be a little out of the ordinary and work hard on it in order to distinguish themselves. Take Sue Bhatia, who took her IT firm from strength to strength by focusing on areas such as professional development for her staff. Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo!, did something similar by making a redesign of the site’s main page, logo, and so on one of her priorities.
With all sorts of barriers facing women who want to become entrepreneurs, it can sometimes seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With lots of ways to surge ahead, ranging from prioritizing areas of focus to ensuring that you make yourself known at meetings, any woman can become an entrepreneur if she sets her mind to it.
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