Women entrepreneurs face a number of challenges compared to their male peers. Traditionally, men had and still have more opportunities, resources, and encouragement to be successful. Thankfully, that has changed now and there are more women entrepreneurs today than there were before. In 2010 in the UK for example, women own 14% of small and medium enterprise (Mitchelmore & Rowley, 2013). In the US there are 10 million US firms owned by women, which comprise 50% of female ownership stake or more as of 2008. From 1997-2002, women-owned enterprises continue to grow two times more than other groups and still thrive despite the current economic strains. What are some of the challenges that women still face?
7 Ways Women Entrepreneurs Differ from Men
1. Women do not start businesses as much as men do
Entrepreneurs tend to be risk-takers, independent and willing to assume leadership positions. Researchers suggested that even when women have ample opportunities, qualifications and resources available to them, they tend to shy away from starting a businesses. The researchers do not address specifically why. They leave it to us to draw inferences.
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2. Women start businesses out of necessity
In countries like Thailand, Japan, Peru and Brazil, the number of women entrepreneurs either equals or exceeds the number of male entrepreneurs (Pines, Lerner & Schwartz, 2012). This trend is also noticed in most Caribbean and Latin American countries. This phenomenon is described as “opportunity” and “necessity” entrepreneurship styles. Suggesting that women tend to start businesses when the need arises. In high-income countries like the U.S., they may not feel an adequate ‘push’ to start a business in contrast to low-income countries like Thailand and Brazil, where women are driven by ‘necessity’ to start business. Men, on the other hand, start businesses when opportunities arise.
3. Women have less access to business-related resources
Even with all the advances, globally women have less available resources with respect to support, capital, and professional assistance required to run businesses. Men, on the other hand, have access to all three. (Verheul, Carree & Thurik, 2009).
4. Women experience different pressures from society
Many business sectors (Bengtsson, Sanandaji & Johannesson, 2012) favor men. Women-owned enterprises are confined to industries that are deemed to be low-growth and low-skilled like retail, administrative support, and social services, while men own businesses in high-technology and manufacturing which are considered high-growth and “masculine” (Sweida & Reichard, 2013).
5. Women make use of family resources
Women tend to benefit more from family support (Powell & Eddleston, 2013). Men have more access than women to external support such as capital and human resources. Women entrepreneurs succeed when they are provided with support from their families.
6. Women are positively influenced by genes
A study showed that business-mindedness can be inherited, and women are likely to inherit it more than men (Zhang et al., 2009). Men’s entrepreneurial skills, on the other hand, are developed more than inherited. Extraversion and Neuroticism are two personality traits that are important to entrepreneurship and are believed to be linked with genes. For women, these personality traits are an asset.
7. Women have different government policies
Women in certain regions and communities have government policies that encourage them to start more businesses (Narayanaswamy, Rasiah & Jacobs, 2011). This shows that governments have slowly begun to understand that women have more difficulties; hence, they are starting to create gender-sensitive policies that help them.
Take Action, Be Unstoppable
According to Randstad Canada, gender differences can actually help generate more entrepreneurial projects. Gender differences need not be challenges to be overcome but strengths that women (and men) can make full use of. Remember that every gender difference can be either a weakness or a strength and in this case, you must use every difference to your advantage.
1. Make a list of your strengths as an entrepreneur. Share your list with a trusted friend or mentor and come up with ways that you can utilize them.
2. Take the free online version of Eysenck’s personality test. There are more differences between people than just gender. Utilize your personality to your advantage. For example, introversion can be a strength if you start building meaningful and deep business relationships.
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3. If you are a woman, be aware of specific government and community policies that can help women entrepreneurs. Then allocate time to take advantage of the opportunities available to you.
4. Make a list of how you can overcome the challenges and demands that your culture or society may impose. Then write down how you will overcome them.
How About You?
What differences do you think are there between men and women? In your experience, do you think the differences between men and women are exaggerated? Why or why not? Was there a time when you have been treated differently (i.e. not given access, being discriminated) because of your gender?
Do share your experiences in the comments section below.