By: Fatima Salahuddin
Female entrepreneurs contend with significant gender-based obstacles in almost every aspect of their lives, including the professional sphere. The few who have succeeded at building top brands try to create alternate paths for other women to excel. However, these three obstacles have proved hard to surmount:
The bigger chunk of women population today do not own land, and their credit histories are very limited. That makes it extremely hard for banks to trust them with loans. And, because over 90% of financial institutions across the world have male CEOs, nobody cares to relax the financial regulatory hurdles that women-run startups face. Getting investors is also hard for women, because even when they have fool-proof business plans and product-market fits, the male-dominated investment world still requires women to “prove” that they have the energy and leadership capacity to execute their plans. Investors prefer startups that promise to grow their valuation to more than $1 billion; businesses whose founding members have a strong track record in business management. Track record is the one thing that women don’t have, considering that they are still struggling to get a footing in the male-chauvinistic entrepreneurial world and society as a whole. This is why female entrepreneurs are more often than not, forced to bring male founding partners on board just to boost their funding chances.
Family-work balance challenges
Women are the primary caregivers in the family unit. Being an entrepreneur forces a woman to spend lots of time at work, sometimes traveling overseas, which is a big way to hurt their family life. Life in most cases narrows down the life choices for women into two: either to become career women, or family caregivers. Finding a balance between the two choices is hard in a society that creates unnecessary pressure, dilemmas, and conflicts for women. Even with tech advancement that allows working moms to follow work-related tasks from home, it is hard to carve out work time from a normal day, because of the high dependency young kids have on their moms. The bottom line as for now remains that women face more uncertainties, complexities, and flexibility challenges, when trying to achieve a work-life-family balance compared to men.
Female entrepreneurship is a long, lonely road
The need for entrepreneurial communities can never be overstated. They give startup entrepreneurs a platform from where they can launch, a benchmark, and a support system that they need to thrive. But, because there aren’t many successful female entrepreneurs, upcoming females don’t have such communities. They lack a safe platform where they can acquire knowledge, share ideas, showcase skills, and get the constructive feedback they need for business longevity and success. Women who seek help from successful male entrepreneurs are often met with skepticism, arrogance, and unfair judgment. That lack of proper mentorship makes female entrepreneurship a long and lonesome road.
How Can We Best Support Female Entrepreneurship?
Women entrepreneurs need to cover more ground than men in order to succeed. This won’t be easy if they keep their hands full with tasks that they can either delegate or outsource. When doing business, female entrepreneurs can outsource all their HR duties to a global PEO such as NHGlobal Partners. A professional employer organization (PEO), helps businesses with all workforce management duties including payroll management, employment laws compliance, and employee recruitment. Working with a PEO can help female entrepreneurs boost morale within their human resources, and to enhance workplace culture, consequently boosting their bottom line.
Another way of supporting female entrepreneurs is to change the current entrepreneurial ecosystem through realistic and honest dialogues about business capital. Governments can, for example, offer women-run startups bigger incentives, and encourage banks to give guarantor-free loans for female-owned businesses. Loans that are anchored on group security or social security, as opposed to personal guarantees, can go a long way in giving women entrepreneurs better access to funding. Relevant government authorities can also adopt a comprehensive, and sustainable industrial policy that makes it easier for women to register businesses and acquire licenses.
Instead of leaving women to self-educate themselves in matters of entrepreneurship, and instead of leaving them to make costly teething mistakes, governments can step in to offer business training to potential and ambitious women. Especially in regards to business profitability and continuity. Society leaders should also educate people against the stereotypes that hold women back, particularly the role of women as caregivers. Husbands should relieve women of the burden of household chores, and other gender roles that prevent them from thriving. Parents, especially in the third world, should give equal educational opportunities to all genders, offering young girls a fair fighting chance in future entrepreneurship.
Women have a role to play in their empowerment. The few who have made it already need to invite more women to the table, and open doors of networking, exposure, and professional contacts for newcomers. They should pass out marketing literature to upcoming female entrepreneurs, and help them promote their brands through women-only events. Female CEOs should recognize the extra difficulties that female entrepreneurs face, and tweak their lending practices accordingly.