It goes without saying that entrepreneurship is no longer only for males. An increasing number of women across the world have established startups in different niches, despite the barriers that exist. According to a report by American Express, there are nearly 13 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. This figure represents 42% of all companies in the U.S. That means women own 4 out of 10 businesses, and these businesses generate about $1.8 trillion annually. Statistics also indicate that more women (registration required) started a business in 2020 than men. These statistics are proof enough that women are successfully paving paths to claim their share in a male-dominated field.
Despite more women taking the entrepreneurial plunge, they still face many challenges that make it difficult. Barriers such as limited funding, gender biases and limited government support have kept women out of entrepreneurship for decades. If you’re facing challenges in your entrepreneurship journey, you’re not alone. There’s still an 8% gap between men entrepreneurs and female ones. Here are some of the barrier’s women entrepreneurs face and some ways to continue moving forward:
So what are some ways that women can overcome this? Firstly, did you know there are alternate ways to secure funding, like applying for grants from the national and state governments and even private enterprises? Some of the private enterprises that offer grants in the U.S include the National Association for the Self-Employed, Idea Café, Small Business Innovation Research, Amber Grant Foundation, 100 Women Charitable Foundation and many more. You can search online and find more organizations that offer funding opportunities that are not well known or published.
Another way to obtain funding for a startup is through crowdfunding. This is not only an easy way to get capital, but it’s also a way of advertising your business before you even get started. Some platforms you can use are GoFundMe, Indiegogo and Kickstarter.
Gender Biases: There are gender biases that create an unfavorable business environment for women entrepreneurs. Society still typically considers running a business to be a patriarchal thing, so when a woman exhibits traits associated with business acumen, they can be viewed to be aggressive and unnerving. It’s important to rise against gender stereotypes. Nearly every aspect of life, including business, is built on a patriarchal foundation, but don’t tone down your view of the world just to fit in.
Work-Life Balance: Even though the household dynamic seems to be changing, there are societies mostly in nonwestern cultures that still expect women to stay at home and take care of children and put all their attention on their household. This stereotype puts many women entrepreneurs in a position where they struggle to achieve work-life balance.
According to Pew data, stay-at-home parents account for about 18% of parents in the U.S., with the vast majority being women. Some women, more so those with social support, manage to balance responsibilities, but others get overwhelmed by carrying the burden by themselves. It’s upon companies to promote equality in gender and take into consideration such realities. A handful of companies target women hiring based on their skills, even if they have been away from the workforce for years taking a break, and not penalize them for that break. I believe this needs to occur more broadly across regions.
Lack Of Support: Statistics show that 48% of women in business lack competent advisors to guide them through entrepreneurship. Moreover, establishing a startup comes with many challenges, meaning even the most experienced entrepreneurs need mentorship to come up with new ideas and implement the right business strategies. You can find mentors and advisors through women-focused networking events such as eWomenNetwork, WIN Conference, Ellevate Network and Bizwomen. You can also perform an online search to find organizations that offer mentorship for women in business.
Covid-19 Pandemic: The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women entrepreneurs since early 2020. A significant percentage of female entrepreneurs run hospitality, wholesale and retail businesses, which have suffered greatly due to shutdowns. The reduced demand for services extended business closure during lockdowns, and having to juggle between household tasks and running a business from home have greatly impacted women entrepreneurship. The Covid-19 pandemic has threatened to undo the progress that has been made in closing the gender gap in entrepreneurship. One good thing is that the government has stepped in with a range of measures to support women entrepreneurs in the U.S during Covid-19.
Final Thoughts: With women business ownership in the U.S. on the rise, we’re closer to bridging the gap that exists between male entrepreneurs and female ones, but we’re far from making an impact on the overall gender gaps in other regions. If you’re one of the successful few, irrespective of your gender, reach out to other women who may be seeking that guidance, join the right forums to make an impact, raise your voice to biases and make it your personal goal to get involved.
As posted on Forbes by Sohil Goorha