While the number of women business owners is on the rise (as reported by the National Association of Women Business Owners, or NAWBO, women now own more than 9 million US firms), they continue to face unique challenges. From limited access to funding to facing glass ceilings, women business owners must clear hurdles that don’t impede male business owners. We consider three of these challenges and offer some tips for overcoming them.
1. Limited Access to Funding
While not all women business owners need investors or extra capital to get their businesses up and running, those who do often struggle to make it past the pitch. One of the reasons for this limited access to funding may be that venture capitalists invest in startups run by people from their own circles. Venture capital firms that have female partners are much more likely than those with all male partners to invest in startups run by women.
However, all hope is not lost for women business owners who are looking for funding. Boards of directors that have just one woman make different decisions; the effect, known as the panel effect, is true for US appellate courts and diverse boardrooms alike.
2. Gender Discrimination and Stereotyping
Gender discrimination and stereotyping are present in nearly every aspect of life. Practically from birth, people are subjected to them: pink blankets and bows for infant girls, sports balls and trucks for toddler boys, and more time and attention in math and science for boys and more attention for girls in language arts in school. Gender bias begins early in life and follows men and women through college and into the business world. Young women are encouraged to pursue traditionally-female careers such as teaching and nursing, while young men are encouraged to become entrepreneurs and doctors.
Even while women earn more degrees than men, not to mention higher grades and more honors, they continue to start businesses unrelated to their college degree at a higher rate than male entrepreneurs. The reason may be that women are dissuaded from pursuing certain careers and do not chase their dreams until later in life when they realize they can. Another reason may be that society continues to send messages that women are suited only to particular professions.
Overcoming gender discrimination and stereotyping means presenting girls with the same educational opportunities and encouragement as boys from a young age. Parents and teachers can combat the stereotypes by ensuring students understand that anyone can be anything. Similarly, the corporate world can help fight gender discrimination by hiring and promoting more women, using diverse hiring teams, critically evaluating work assignments, and closing the gender pay gap.
3. Achieving a Work/Life Balance is Difficult
Unfortunately, some gender discrimination and stereotypes spill from the business world into the family world. Women business owners struggle to find a balance between work and home because they run their homes and families in addition to their companies. While society continues to expect dads to miss sporting events and music recitals because they have to work late at the office, there is a level of shame placed upon women who put their business before their family. Mothers also feel guilt and stress when they feel caught between work and home.
One way to combat the work/life balance problem is for women business owners to give themselves permission to be imperfect. They have choices to make and should decide to be happy with their choices rather than dwell on them. Sometimes, business will come first; other times, your family will. Setting priorities and boundaries will help you achieve this balance and empower you to feel better about the decisions you make.
A good way to help alleviate stress when you’re busy is to outsource housework. For example, if you need someone to help out with your dog during the days you’re working late, a dog walker could come in handy (a midday one-time walking will cost you around $22, depending on your location). Another way is to hire a cleaning service to give your house some attention when you’re super busy. Keep in mind, however, that people in Aurora, Illinois, spend on average between $85 and $175 on maid services.
Another way to balance work and home is to set a daily schedule. A key characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is being regimented — they set a daily, weekly, and monthly work routine, and they stick to it. Applying this same logic to create a healthier work/life balance is extremely beneficial to female business owners. Most likely, the schedule will look different each day, but you can align it to your priorities and stick to it to help you be present when it is work time and avoid work distractions when it is family time. For example, don’t take a work phone call in the middle of family dinner time or family game night.
Women business owners do face unique challenges. But, more diverse boardrooms can help pave the way for women business owners. Society also can combat gender bias and stereotypes by placing an emphasis on gender neutrality. Finally, women can take charge of their work/life balance and allow themselves to split their time in a way that makes them more productive with fewer feelings of guilt.
Image via Pixabayby Jo_Johnston