Female entrepreneurs have received a lot of press over the last couple of years, and with good reason: There are more of us. In fact, female-owned businesses now account for 30 percent of privately held American companies. Women-owned businesses are expected to create at least five million new jobs nationwide by 2018.
Despite our achievements, however, inequity still is a very real issue. As an entrepreneur and proud mother of three, I’ve experienced my unfair share of struggles in the workplace. It’s important to recognize some of the most critical challenges so we can rise above them.
1. Balancing paid and unpaid work.
Not all female entrepreneurs are mothers, but those of us who are know the struggle as well as the rewards. Juggling motherhood and a career can be exhausting, especially in an age where we spend more time with our children than any other period in recent history.
Let’s do some math:
A (good) work day is 9 to 5, five days a week. But entrepreneurs tend to work 52 hours per week.
Moms, on the other hand, spend more than two hours a day with their children -- every single day -- doing "just" mom stuff.
That creates a baseline of more than 62 hours per work week, not counting weekends.
Also not included in that 62-hour baseline: family dinners, shopping, sports games and everything else that falls under the category of parenting and family support.
Would I trade any of it for more time? Of course not. Those are the best parts of life. And I never put work before family (though work is still pretty high in the pecking order). We know it’s impossible to split our time and energy equally between children and careers, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.
There is a silver lining: When you’re a mom, you master important skills, such as being able to multitask or to think on your toes. Moms do that stuff all day, every day. So do the most successful entrepreneurs.
2. Making do with (a lack of) funding.
It's widely known that on average, female full-time, year-round workers make just 80 cents on every dollar paid to men. An even greater disparity exists between the sexes when it comes to venture-capital funding.
Many startup owners aspire to raise venture capital “Series A” funding, which represents an investment between $3 million and $15 million. If you’re looking to reach that level, you’d better hope you’re a man. Only 8 percent of all Series A funding received last year went to female-led businesses.
Why is this the case? Reasons range from the nuances of female entrepreneurial culture to systematic sexism in the business community. Whatever the root causes, the numbers certainly point to a truth: Women have a harder time securing venture capital funding than men do.
Related: Acing Your Pitch to Investors
3. Excelling in a bootstrapping culture.
Lack of funding is a double-edged sword. It can be flipped into a positive, and women have used that motivation to their advantage. In fact, companies are more likely to be profitable when women are running the show.
This comes out of necessity more than anything else, though. With less funding going to women-run companies, we female entrepreneurs must turn a profit -- or close their doors. Women are 37 percent more likely to pull money from their own bank accounts to start their businesses. That means more pressure to succeed. Failure or even delayed success can have drastic and long-lasting effects on our personal lives.
4. Battling subtle stereotypes.
There's no denying the progress we've made in the business world over the past few decades. Sexism isn't the blatantly rampant force it once was. It's transformed. Now, this discrimination rears its ugly head in more subversive ways that are felt especially by female entrepreneurs.
Successful women often are perceived as less likable. This is in sharp contrast to men, who are much more likable thanks to their success. Furthermore, women often are forced to prove themselves before they're taken seriously by a prospective client, peers or even their employees. Sadly, this is because many people suffer from the underlying assumption that women are incompetent on the whole (or by nature).
Breaking the struggle.
As women and successful entrepreneurs, we’ve already made a substantial amount of progress through innovation and determination. That being said, we still have far to go. Those struggles will cease only when the gender divide begins to close within the entrepreneur community.
As for being a mom? I doubt that job description ever will not include struggle -- albeit, a wonderful one.