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What challenges do women entrepreneurs face that men may not, and how can they be overcome?

Posted by Kanika Sinha

September 30, 2021    |     4-minute read (651 words)

Despite an increasing number of women taking the entrepreneurial plunge, an array of barriers make it difficult for them to claim their fair share of the spoils. 

Almost 13 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. collectively generate about $1.8 trillion in revenues annually, according to the Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey. Still, female entrepreneurs have to contend with distinct pressures and additional challenges in the business world as compared with their male counterparts. 

Below we present the most-frequently cited obstacles faced by women entrepreneurs, along with suggestions to overcome them:

  • Gender biases
Persistent gender biases contribute to an unfavorable business environment for women entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is still perceived by some as a masculine pursuit, with the required business acumen deemed a “manly” attribute. When a woman exhibits the traits needed to successfully build a business, their efforts may be construed as aggressive and unnerving.

How to overcome it: If you’re a successful entrepreneur, regardless of your gender, raise your voice against these stereotypes. Reach out to women who may be seeking support and guidance. Consider getting more involved in professional organizations in your field that are working to challenge these biases and recalibrate the discussion.

  • Less capital funding
While securing funding is a struggle for both male and female entrepreneurs, the challenges are heightened for women. Crunchbase reports that only about 2.8% of venture capital went to women entrepreneurs in 2019, and that figure dropped to 2.3% in 2020. This was despite research showing that  women-owned businesses deliver better results

Due to this funding disparity, in 2014 only 2% of women-owned businesses in the U.S. were able break $1 million in revenue, while those owned by male entrepreneurs were 3.5 times more likely to achieve this number, according to an Ernst & Young release. In 2019, the number of women-owned businesses with revenue of at least $1 million notched up to just 4.2%, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.

How to overcome it: Instead of settling for limited funding, consider alternative ways to secure capital, such as applying for grants from the federal and state governments and even private enterprises. You can search online on Grants.gov for the latest information about available programs.

Additionally, you may be able to obtain funding for a startup through crowdfunding on platforms such as GoFundMe, Indiegogo and Kickstarter. This route offers the bonus of helping to advertise your business before you even get started. 

  • Lack of support
Statistics from Inc. reveal that 48% of women in business lack access to competent mentors and advisers to guide them through entrepreneurship. Even seasoned entrepreneurs need guidance to come up with ideas and implement the right business strategies. 

How to overcome it: Connect with mentors and advisers through women-focused networking events such as the American Business Women's Association, Bizwomen, SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, eWomenNetwork, WIN Conference, Ellevate Network etc. You can also search online and find organizations that offer mentorship for women in business.  

  • Work-life balance
Even today, some people still hold the perception that women, particularly mothers, should stay at home and handle the household responsibilities and familial duties. According to Pew data, stay-at-home parents account for about 18% of parents in the U.S., with the share of fathers a mere 7% . The lingering stereotype of women as primary caregivers puts many female entrepreneurs in a position where they struggle to achieve work-life balance. 

This gender inequality at home for women entrepreneurs has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as many juggle household tasks and running the business from home.

How to overcome it: Companies can play a key role in promoting gender equality by taking such realities into consideration. For example, many organizations won’t hire people with a gap in their job history, which automatically excludes candidates who paused work to take on family and home responsibilities. 

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