Originally posted on Forbes.
As a young female She-EO, I’m acutely aware of the challenges that female entrepreneurs face in this market. That being said, it’s never been a more exciting time to start and run a business! Every second, eight new people are joining the Internet. This means if you’re marketing yourself online, you can reach 2.8 billion potential eyeballs! The amount of customers you can acquire is practically limitless. Plus, if you’re looking to build a personal brand, the Internet is a goldmine for you—research claims that institutional brands are falling as personal brands rise in their place.
Leaders such as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt have spoken out on the importance of hiring more women, and progress is being made in a big way. Nonetheless, here are the top four challenges facing female entrepreneurs and ways to overcome them.
1. Too many people still don’t take professional women seriously. And it’s ridiculous. As of 2015, there are more than 9.4 million businesses owned by women that employ close to 8 million people. Women make up 58.6% of the workforce in the U.S. Yet there are many who just don’t take women seriously in the professional world. As Marcela Sapone, a female entrepreneur who appears in Forbes’ 2016 30 Under 30, puts it, “Women start businesses that seem cute on the surface, but that’s when you should be really afraid. What we’re doing is really meaningful and is going to change how people live.” So how to overcome it? If you’re getting this vibe from someone, realize that it is a deeply-seeded gender bias of theirs, and that it’s not about you personally. Moreover, they’re projecting their own beliefs about what’s possible (or not possible) onto you. Game on, play big… You can decide whether it’s worth challenging them directly, but realize that you’re unlikely to change their perception. Make sure you have a strong support network of your own, and you won’t have to rely on individuals like this for their support.
2. Women don’t give themselves the credit they deserve. And I believe that parents must shoulder part of the blame for this—great parents need to learn how they can support their daughters in communicating about their accomplishments. On a biological level, men seem to be able to communicate their accomplishments to those around them— this translates into better job offers; I see it all the time with clients in my job hunting e-course. However, when a woman communicates her accomplishments, it’s often seen as bragging, so often women express accomplishments as group achievements as opposed to individual successes, or downplay the accomplishment altogether. Having confidence to sell yourself on your accomplishments without fearing how others perceive you is necessary. Leveraging your accomplishments is one of the best ways to grow and build your business, so stop selling yourself short. The world needs what you have, and that means learning how to communicate about YOU in an effective way.
3. Women tend to overextend themselves. We want to please everyone. We want to remain in control. We take on too many roles. And all that does is lead to burnout, which can really cost you in the long run. If you want to build your concept into a success, you need to learn how to delegate. You need to learn how to say “no.” You need to prioritize and manage your time well. Trust me, it’s not an easy balance to strike. But it’s necessary if you want your business to be a success long-term. I’ve coached so many female entrepreneurs that are hyper-focused on one goal—so much so that once they reach it, they’re too burnt out to keep moving.
4. Women fear failure. Even from a young age, women are not taught to be confident the way that men are. That lack of confidence means that we tend to give in to our fear of failure and can often let it cripple us. One study even indicates that it is the top factor holding female entrepreneurs back from taking the plunge. While fear of failure is normal and quite real, it doesn’t have to be paralyzing. Failure is inevitable in the journey to success, so it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be and often should be a learning experience. Learn to recognize when you’re feeling insecure due to your fear of failure. Make sure to acknowledge it and work through it before letting it dictate the decisions you’re making for your company. And realize that even if you do fail, you’re competent and strong enough to handle the failure and move on.
Women definitely face unique challenges in starting their own business ventures, but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome, and it shouldn’t hold us back. And when you’re hesitating to play bigger, remember… it’s not just about you. It’s about all of the other women that you will tacitly inspire to give themselves permission… Permission to play big, permission to own their light and permission to launch businesses that change the world.
Shine on, She-EO’s. You don’t need my permission, anyhow.
Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.